Govt sets ball rolling for extraction of prized lithium reserves in Reasi

‘LG, CS-led admin looking forward to taking next steps for extracting white gold’
Men walk near the lithium reserves discovered in J&K's Reasi.
Men walk near the lithium reserves discovered in J&K's Reasi. File: Mir Imran for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: Setting the ball rolling to boost the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, the government has started a process to extract prized lithium reserves in Reasi district here.

The discovery of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves in J&K for the first time in the country has brought J&K in the global limelight.

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

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.

“The J&K administration led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta are looking forward towards taking next steps for extraction of lithium in Reasi at the earliest and already a process has been initiated under their directions towards appointing a transaction advisor and auction platform to carry forward extraction process for this potentially-rich reserves of lithium to the tune of 5.9 million tonnes, second highest in the world,” said Secretary to Government, Mining Department, J&K, Amit Sharma.

“The government will take all possible steps and measures to make this lithium discovery a reality soon and meet the decided timelines for its extraction with total support of the Centre on this behalf,” he said.

In this regard, Sharma today visited a lithium reserves site located in Salal-Haimna area of Reasi to take first-hand account of the area and hold a review of the progress made on this behalf by the district administration.

Director Geology and Mining O P Bhagat, Joint Director Jammu H L Langeh, District Mineral Officer Reasi Shafiq Ahmed, Tehsildar, Naib Tehsildar, Sarpanches, Naib Sarpanches and other prominent citizens of the area accompanied Sharma.

During the site visit, officers of the Mining Department disclosed to Sharma that the demarcation work of the lithium reserves site had been completed a few days back, which was spread in an area of around 3 sq km.

The Revenue Department has also completed the task of creating lists of habitations, plantations, and other assets falling within these demarcated limits.

The people of the area requested the visiting Secretary Mining to ensure that fair compensation was paid to the persons whose assets were coming within the zone of lithium reserves and he assured that all care and due diligence would be shown by the concerned authorities including DC Reasi and her team for ensuring it.

Sharma led a brainstorming meeting along with DC Reasi Babila Rukwal and Director Geology and Mining with district officers of different departments to know about the progress made regarding the assets identification so that this process goes on parallel while the government was finalising RR plans towards extraction of this strategic mineral lithium along with deciding towards setting-up metallurgy plants for bringing out the end finished product through SEZ for manufacturing plants in Reasi as an end-to-end solution in this domain.

Officials said that this way, this rare discovery of lithium in J&K could boost-up the J&K economy exponentially as well as provide ample employment to the jobless local youth here.

In the wake of emerging eco-friendly technologies, the Centre 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.

Experts have said that the discovery of lithium reserves would be beneficial for the social economic development of Jammu and Kashmir and scientific advancement of the country.

With India becoming one of the major producers of 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.

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 the Geological Survey of India, scientists had found traces of lithium.

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 electric vehicles 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.

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