IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


13th February, 2023 Science and Technology

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  • Lithium reserves have been found for the first time in the country in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The 5.9-million-ton reserve of lithium, found in Jammu and Kashmir, is of the best quality.


  • Referred to as “white gold” – Lithium metal is soft, white, and lustrous—and several of its alloys and compounds are produced on an industrial scale. Lithium is a non-ferrous metal and is one of the key components in EV batteries.


  • A soft, silvery metal.
  • It has the lowest density of all metals.
  • It reacts vigorously with water.


  • Electronics:The most important use of lithium is in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles.
  • Glass and Grease:Lithium-ion batteries are also used in ceramics and glass, lubricating greases, polymer production, and air treatment.
  • Medical:Lithium is also used in some non-rechargeable batteries for things like heart pacemakers, toys and clocks. It is also used in psychiatric medications and in dental imprints. Lithium carbonate is used in drugs to treat manic depression.
  • Nuclear Weapons:The lighter of the two lithium isotopes is used in the production of Tritium, a key component of nuclear weapons.
  • Infrastructure:Lithium metal is made into alloys with aluminum and magnesium, improving their strength and making them lighter. Aluminum-lithium alloys are used in aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.
  • Fuel:Lithium hydride is used as a means of storing hydrogen for use as a fuel.
  • Other:A magnesium-lithium alloy is used for armour plating. Lithium chloride is one of the most hygroscopic materials known, and is used in air conditioning and industrial drying systems (as is lithium bromide). Lithium stearate is used as an all-purpose and high-temperature lubricant.

Biological role

  • Lithium has no known biological role. It is toxic, except in very small doses.

Natural abundance

  • Lithium does not occur as the metal in nature,but is found combined in small amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in the waters of many mineral springs.
  • Spodumene, petalite, lepidolite, and amblygonite are the more important minerals containing lithium.
  • Most lithium is currently produced in Chile, from brines that yield lithium carbonate when treated with sodium carbonate.
  • The metal is produced by the electrolysis of molten lithium chloride and potassium chloride.

Lithium Production in the world

  • Australia, Chile, China and Argentina are the world’s top four lithium-producing countries.

Lithium Triangle

  • The Lithium Triangle is a region of the Andes rich in lithium reserves around the borders of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
  • The lithium in the triangle is concentrated in various salt pans that exist along the Atacama Desert and neighboring arid areas.
  • The area is thought to hold around 54% of the world's lithium reserves.
  • The Indian Navy has shown interest in the Lithium Triangle as lithium will be required on Li-ION batteries that are planned to be fitted in future submarines.

Recent finds in India

  • As of now, India currently imports all its lithium needs.
  • The Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India has discovered 1600kg Lithium in Mandla district of Karnataka.
  • The find in Mandya, Karnataka is extremely small in quantitative terms, but it marks some initial success in the attempt to domestically mine Lithium.
  • Lithium reserves in large quantity has been found for the first time in the country in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Marlagalla-Allapatna area, along the Nagamangala Schist Belt, which exposes mineralized complex pegmatites (igneous rocks), is seen as among the most promising geological domains for potential exploration for lithium and other rare metals.

Significance of domestic exploration

  • In the coming future, battery manufacturing is expected to accelerate over the coming years, particularly as electric vehicles become more prevalent.
  • Thus, analysts expect worldwide demand for Lithium will more than double by 2024.
  • However, as of now, India is entirely relying on the import of lithium-ion batteries from other countries, and is particularly dependent on China, who has dominated the lithium manufacturing industry.
  • It is estimated, that China controls around half of the world’s lithium production, thereby relying on its own reserves, as well as imports from South America.
  • The new discovery will reduce import dependency and promote make in India, along with Atmanirbhar Bharat in the energy sector.

India’s Lithium Story

ü India’s first Lithium plant has been set up at Gujarat in 2021, where Manikaran Power Limited will invest Rs 1000 crore to set up this refinery. The refinery will use Lithium ore to produce base battery material.

ü TATA is working on 100% made in India Li-ion batteries.

ü The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures these batteries, but their quantity is presently limited, and they are severely restricted in use.

ü In 2018, Central Electro Chemical Research Institute in Tamil Nadu, in collaboration with RAASI Solar Power Private Limited signed a Memorandum of Agreement for Li-battery operation and technology transfer to India.

Steps has India taken so far

Extracting the Metal

  • India – whose diplomatic ties with Latin America have historically been rather weak – had high-level visits with all three countries of the lithium triangle in 2019.
  • India, through its Khanij Videsh India Limited (KABIL), had signed an agreement with an Argentinian firm to jointly prospect lithium in Argentina.
  • The same delegation from KABIL has also visited Bolivia and Chile to explore possibilities of lithium extraction.
  • This underlines India’s interest in the regions’ lithium.
  • The visit of President Shri Ram Nath Kovind to Bolivia – which is the first-ever state visit to the country – has resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Geology and Mineral Resources.

Towards domestic production of lithium-ion batteries

  • The Indian government has started to explore domestic production of lithium-ion batteries.
  • The government asked states to compete for establishing domestic manufacturing facilities for lithium-ion batteries.
  • This led Telangana to announce 200 acres of land available to build a 5 GW lithium-ion battery factory.
  • To promote the domestic production, the government has announced an increase in basic customs duty on parts of electric passenger vehicles (from April 2020) and lithium-ion cells (from April 2021).
  • India’s Manikaran Power and Australia’s Neometals company stroke a deal in June 2020, to jointly fund a refinery in Australia to produce battery grade material for electric vehicles
  • The domestic exploration push, comes at a time when India has stepped up its economic offensive against China.



During FSP 2016-17 to FSP 2020-21, Geological Survey of India carried out 14 projects on Lithium and associated elements in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Karnataka and Rajasthan. During the current FSP 2021-22, GSI has taken up 5 projects on Lithium and associated minerals in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan.


Potential Geological domains of Lithium in India

  • Brines of Sambhar and Pachpadra in Rajasthan, and Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat.
  • The major mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, and the pegmatite belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh apart from Karnataka, are the other potential geological domains.

Delay in mapping reserves

  • Experts say while India requires lithium for its energy needs, there has been no comprehensive effort to map local reserves of lithium so far. India is seen as a late mover in attempts to enter the lithium value chain.
  • The discovery is coming at a time when EVs are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption.
  • There can be an inflection point for battery technology – with several potential improvements to the li-ion technology, and alternatives are in advanced stages of commercialization.

Way Ahead

  • The growing demand for Lithium in India is driven by the goal of Indian government to become one of the largest electric vehicle markets world over.
  • NITI Aayog has set an ambitious target to increase the number of electric vehicles by 30 percent by 2030.
  • In line with these goals, it is high time for India to engage in extraction and exploitation of lithium and develop an industry to produce lithium-ion products domestically.