New Delhi: Researchers at the Atomic Minerals Directorate, a unit of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, have estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a patch of land surveyed in Mandya, 100 km from Bengaluru, according to a paper to be published in the forthcoming issue of journal Current Science, the Economic Times reported on Tuesday.
Lithium is a rare metal, critical for manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles.
“The present data provides a total estimation of available Li2O as about 30,300 tonnes over an area of 0.5 km x 5 km, which works out to about 14,100 tonnes of lithium metal," the report quoted N Munichandraiah, Emeritus Professor at the Indian Institute of Science and an expert on battery technologies.
But, traces found in Mandya are way to little when compared to major producers. “If one compares with 8.6 million tonnes in Chile, 2.8 million tonnes in Australia, 1.7 million tonnes in Argentina or 60,000 tonnes in Portugal, 14,100 tonnes is not that large," Munichandraiah said.
India currently imports all its lithium needs. It imported lithium batteries worth $1.2 billion in fiscal 2019, up from $384 million in FY17.
In the 8 months to November 2019, the country’s lithium battery totalled $929 million, according to data shared by science & technology minister Harsh Vardhan in Parliament on 2 February.
Experts say while India requires lithium for its energy needs, there has been no comprehensive effort to map local reserves of lithium so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been pushing hard to promote clean-energy vehicles in India, and has unveiled a host of measures, including a $1.4 billion plan to make India a manufacturing hub for electric vehicles.