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Geological Survey of India working on seven lithium exploration projects

India does not have enough lithium reserves for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, with lithium also having other uses such as in mobile phone batteries, solar panels, aerospace and thermonuclear fusion (REUTERS)Premium
India does not have enough lithium reserves for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, with lithium also having other uses such as in mobile phone batteries, solar panels, aerospace and thermonuclear fusion (REUTERS)

  • The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research under Department Atomic Energy has also undertaken lithium exploration in Karnataka and Rajasthan

New Delhi: As part of India’s energy security plans, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has taken up seven lithium exploration projects in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan.

Also, the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMDER) under Department Atomic Energy (DAE) has undertaken lithium exploration in Karnataka and Rajasthan. This information was shared by mines, coal and parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi in Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

This comes in the backdrop of the union government announcing a 18,100 crore production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to make lithium-ion cells to promote e-mobility in India. However, India does not have enough lithium reserves for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, with lithium also having other uses such as in mobile phone batteries, solar panels, aerospace and thermonuclear fusion. Almost all-electric vehicles in the country run on imported batteries, mostly from China.

Also, state-run Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL)— a joint venture firm of National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd. and Mineral Exploration Company Ltd—is scouting for acquiring cobalt and lithium mines overseas. India has also inked an agreement with Argentina for securing strategic minerals. The JV KABIL has inked non-binding Memorandum of understanding (MoU) with three state-owned organizations of Argentina—JEMSE, YPF and CAMYEN.

This assumes significance given that Chinese state-owned firms have already secured lithium mine concessions in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, which forms the so-called lithium triangle.

“During FSP (Field Season Programme) 2016-17 to FSP 2020-21, GSI carried out 14 projects on Lithium and associated elements in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Karnataka and Rajasthan," mines ministry said in a statement.

“During the present FSP 2021-22, GSI has taken up 7 projects on Lithium in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan. However, resource of lithium has not yet been augmented by GSI," the statement added.

Securing lithium supplies will play a major role in Indian energy majors pivot towards the country’s green economy. A case in point being Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) announcing its plans to set up an Advanced Energy Storage Giga Factory. Mint reported on 3 June about Reliance Industries Ltd, Adani Group, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Tata Chemicals, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Greeenko Group, Renew Power and a joint venture led by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp. among companies who have shown interest in building lithium-ion cell manufacturing plants in India.

“AMDER has also taken up subsurface exploration in Marlagalla area, Mandya district, Karnataka. Reconnaissance surveys have been also carried out along Saraswati River palaeochannel, in Jodhpur and Barmer districts, Rajasthan for locating lithium mineralisation associated with brine (saline water in salt lakes). Preliminary surveys on surface and limited subsurface exploration by AMD, have shown presence of Lithium resources of 1,600 tonnes (inferred category) in the pegmatites of Marlagalla – Allapatna area, Mandya district, Karnataka," the statement added.

Securing lithium supplies, a key raw material for making batteries, follows the Asian majors’ quest for buying oil and gas fields overseas, which saw a resource race in geographies such as Africa. In this backdrop, Indian strategic experts believe India and China are locked in a geopolitical race to sew up as much of the world’s next generation natural resources such as lithium.

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