WHITE GOLD RUSH UPLOADING |  J&K to fuel India’s electric vehicle race

Scientists elated over discovery of 5.90 million ton lithium deposits in Reasi
This is for the first time in the country that Lithium reserves have been found [Representative Image]
This is for the first time in the country that Lithium reserves have been found [Representative Image]Haseeb Ibn Hameed for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar, Feb 11: The discovery of 5.9 million tonnes of Lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time in the country has brought J&K in the global limelight.

The Geological Survey of India on February 9, for the first time, established lithium-inferred resources (G3) of 5.9 million tonnes in the Salal-Haimana area of the Reasi district of J&K.

Lithium is a non-ferrous metal and is one of the key components in electric vehicle batteries. The GSI report on lithium emerged from field investigations from several years in Reasi.

As various countries are shifting from gasoline-fueled combustion engines due to high emissions detrimental to the environment, demand for lithium, nickel, and cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries is growing.

India is import-dependent for many minerals like lithium, nickel, and cobalt.

“For the first time, lithium reserves have been discovered and that too in Jammu and Kashmir,” Union Mines Secretary Vivek Bharadwaj said.

Threadbare discussions were held on the issue during the 62nd Central Geological Programming Board (CGPB) meeting held in New Delhi on Thursday.

In the wake of emerging eco-friendly technologies, the Government of India has been taking slew of measures to secure minerals, including lithium from various countries. 

Lithium is used in batteries of electric cars, mobile phones or solar panels.

“In order to become self-reliant, it is very important for the country to find out critical minerals and also process it,” the Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi stated. “J&K will wholly own the mines despite it being a union territory.”

The discovery of the lithium mines has elated J&K government as well as the scientific community.

“The discovery of   5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves in the Reasi belt of J&K could be one of the largest lithium deposits in the world.

“It will be beneficial for the social economic development of Jammu and Kashmir and scientific advancement of the country,” J&K’s noted earth scientist Prof Shakil Romshoo told Greater Kashmir.

Elaborating, Romshoo said with India becoming one of the major producers of the lithium in the world, the manufacturing of electric vehicles in the country would see a quantum jump with the country committed to increase the number of electric vehicles by 30 percent by 2030.

India is currently 100 percent dependent on imports of lithium for its manufacturing industry and the discovery as such is an important milestone.

“The price of lithium called ‘white gold’ has increased manifold recently due to its worldwide use and applications in industry and the demand is increasing. This would therefore fetch significant revenues and enhance the socio-economic development of J&K. Furthermore, the use of lithium in important manufacturing sectors will boost the scientific development of the country and provide a flip to the efforts of making India a self-reliant nation,” Romshoo said.

He said that the discovery would also likely help India to deliver on its international promise of becoming carbon neutral by 2070.

“It will help India to meet its climate change goals as it is hoped that the large-scale manufacturing and use of electric vehicles in the country would significantly reduce the fossil fuel emissions from the conventional diesel and petrol vehicles. So, this is an important development which will help the country to meet international obligations on climate change,” Romshoo said.

“I believe that if climate targets set in the Paris Agreement are to be met, the promotion of electric vehicles using lithium batteries on large scale in the most populous countries like India, China, US, and Europe is a must as these are significantly less polluting and less carbon intensive,” he said.

However, Romshoo said that the mining and exploration of the lithium ore would have a significant environmental cost, which needs to be minimised, employing the latest environmental-friendly exploration technologies.

Geoscientist Abdul Majid Butt said that over a decade ago he was posted at BalligangaKatra in Jammu.

“I was doing Magnesite investigation which is used in the manufacture of burnt bricks in high temperature ovens. Incidentally, I also chanced on lithium deposits but due to non-availability of lab facilities, could not process it furthermore. It is a matter of great importance for us as we will use this in the manufacture of batteries and other uses,” Butt said.

In its final report on the Regional Geo-chemical Survey for base metals and lithium in Salal area of Udhampur district from 1995 to 1997, by Geological Survey of India, scientists had found traces of lithium.

“The solubility of lithium has indicated that the lithium is amenable to dissolution only by hydrofluorination with perchloric acid, which means the metal is present either in silicate or in the lattices of bauxite mineral. Mineralogical studies have failed to identify the mineral phase except in one sample where cockeite was indicated.  The higher values of lithium are persistent throughout the belt (where bauxite is exposed) in the bauxite column. Lithium prospect in the bauxite column in the area investigation appears to be promising. The bauxite column in Salal-Panasa- Sangarmarg (Saroda Bas) and Chakar areas appears to be a promising horizon for lithium and may be taken up for further detailed work,” the study had stated.

Lithium-ion battery costs have increased since last year due to the electric vehicle boom.

The Centre has launched several incentives of at least $3.4 billion to expedite its lagging adoption of EVs to manufacture costliest components including batteries locally to make end product more affordable.

India currently imports all lithium and lithium-ion batteries, mainly from Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

It spent over Rs 26,700 crore on these imports from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Chile has the world’s largest known reserves with 8 million tonnes, followed by Australia’s 2.7 million tonnes, Argentina’s 2 million tonnes, and China’s 1 million tonnes.

GSI would advance exploration in mining blocks in Reasi called general exploration or “G2” stage studies by geochemical and geophysical surveys and drilling and sampling for testing of processing technology.

Director Geology and Mining, J&K, Om Prakash Bhagat termed the discovery of lithium reserves as historic.

“The Geology and Mining Department will take further action with regard to e-auctioning of lithium mining blocks for issuance of composite license through the successful bidders depending upon the stages of investigations carried out by the Geological Survey of India. We will go through details of the report furnished to the Union Mining Department. We will decide to either do G1, G2 investigation or issue composite license for as in where is basis auction of lithium mines,” Bhagat told Greater Kashmir.

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