Prelims: Geological Survey of India, Lithium reserves and its importance
Mains: Mineral & Energy Resources
Why in News?
The Geological Survey of Indiahas for the first-time established Lithium ‘inferred’ resources(G3) of 5.9 million tonnes in Salal-Haimana area of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir.
What are Inferred Resources?
The “inferred” mineral resource is a resource for which quantity, grade and mineral content are estimated only with a low level of confidence.
It is based on information gathered from locations such as outcrops, trenches, pits, workings and drill holes that may be of limited or uncertain quality, and also of lower reliability from geological evidence.
It is based on the classification from United Nations International Framework Classification for Reserves/Resources – Solid Fuels and Mineral Commodities of 1997 (UNFC-1997).
What is UNFC-1997?
UNFC-1997 is a system for the classification and reporting of reserves and resources of solid fuels and mineral commodities and provides a standardized, internationally recognized system for the reporting of reserves and resources.
It has been developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe.
It promotes transparency and consistency in the reporting of mineral and energy assets and ensures that geological, engineering, and economic information is used consistently.
It provides a basis for comparing reserves and resources data between countries and regions which is widely used by governments, industry, and financial institutions around the world.
According to UNFC-1997, there are four stages of exploration for any mineral deposit:
Preliminary exploration (G3)
General Exploration (G2)
Detailed Exploration (G1)
What is Lithium?
Lithium (Li), sometimes also referred as ‘White gold’ due to its high demand for rechargeable batteries, is a soft and silvery-white metal.
Lithium can be extracted in different ways, depending on the type of the deposit — generally either through solar evaporation of large brine pools, or from hard-rock extraction of the ore.
Lithium is an important component of electrochemical cells used in batteries of EVs, Laptops, Mobiles etc.
It is also used in thermonuclear reactions.
It is used to make alloys with aluminium and magnesium, improving their strength and making them lighter.
Magnesium-lithium alloy - for armour plating.
Aluminum-lithium alloys - in aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.
Major Global Lithium Reserves:
Chile > Australia > Argentina are top countries with Li reserves.
Preliminary survey showed estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of land surveyed in Southern Karnataka’s Mandya district.
Other potential sites:
Mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh.
Pegmatite belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
Rann of Kutch in Gujrat.
How India Currently Fulfills its Lithium Demand?
India is currently dependent on imports for lithium cells and batteries. Over 165 crore lithium batteries are estimated to have been imported into India between FY17 and FY20 at an estimated import bill of upwards of $3.3 billion.
The country's efforts to secure lithium sourcing agreements are seen as a move against imports from China, which is the major source of both raw materials and cells.
India is perceived as a late entrant into the lithium value chain, entering at a time when the EV sector is expected to undergo significant disruption.
2023 is considered a turning point for battery technology, with the potential for several improvements to the Li-ion technology.
What is the Significance of Discovery?
Assistance in Achieving Targets:
India has pledged to reduce its emissions towards net zero by 2070, which requires the availability of lithium as a critical component in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
The Central Electricity Authority of India has estimated that the country will need 27 GW of grid-scale battery energy storage systems by 2030, which will require massive amounts of lithium.
Addressing Global Shortages:
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned of global lithium shortages due to rising demand for EVs and rechargeable batteries, which is estimated to reach 2 billion by 2050.
The world's supply of lithium is under strain due to the concentration of resources in a few locations with 54% of the world's Lithium reserves are found in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.