The Spark for a Sustainable Future: India's Lithium Reserves
On February 9, 2023, a lithium reserve totalling 5.9 million tonnes was discovered in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).
Imagine powering your electric car with a lithium-ion battery that was mined right here in India. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, hold on to your hats because this dream is about to become a reality. The Geological Survey of India recently announced the discovery of 5.9 million tonnes of inferred deposits of lithium in the Salal-Haimana area of the Reasi district in Jammu & Kashmir.
This discovery is a game-changer for India's upcoming shift to a green economy. After all, electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines - all essential components of a green economy - rely on lithium-ion batteries. In fact, according to World Bank research, demand for essential metals like lithium and cobalt is expected to increase by a whopping 500% by 2050.
India's lithium market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 23.76% by 2028, while the global electric vehicle market is expected to reach a whopping $823.75 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 18.2% from 2021 to 2030. In the face of such incredible growth, India wants to ensure that it has a secure supply of essential minerals while also increasing its level of industry self-sufficiency.
With this discovery, India is poised to take a leading role in the global sustainable development movement. The future looks bright - or should we say, green - for India as it embarks on a journey towards a more sustainable and self-sufficient future.
What It Means For India
Get ready for an exciting and game-changing discovery, folks! India has hit the jackpot with its recent discovery of a massive reserve of lithium in Jammu and Kashmir. This mineral, crucial for the production of batteries, has the potential to change the game for India's sustainability efforts.Currently, India imports all of its lithium from faraway countries such as Australia and Argentina, and the majority of its lithium-ion cell requirements from China and Hong Kong.
However, with the newly discovered lithium deposits, India might just surpass China in terms of its lithium stockpile.What does this mean for India? For starters, it could be a significant game-changer for the indigenous battery manufacturing sector, which would no longer need to rely heavily on foreign imports. Not only would this save money, but it would also increase India's energy security and reduce its dependence on other nations.And that's not all!
With a local source and supply of lithium, India could potentially shift the global supply concentration away from the Lithium Triangle nations, thus having a significant impact on the global lithium market.The discovery of lithium in Jammu and Kashmir is a major step forward in India's journey towards sustainable development. So, let's celebrate this fantastic news and look forward to a greener and more sustainable future!
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 EVs by 30% by 2030. Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) scheme, which aims to promote the use of EVs in the country. Under this scheme, the government provides incentives to EV manufacturers and buyers. In 2019, the government approved the second phase of the FAME India scheme, which has a budget of Rs 10,000 crore ($1.4 billion) for a period of three years from 2019-20 to 2021-22.
The government has also taken several measures to promote the use of renewable energy in the country. In 2014, the government launched the National Solar Mission, and in 2018 the KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthan Mahabhiyan) scheme was approved to promote the use of solar power for irrigation purposes.
The government has also set up the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) to provide policy and strategic support to the government in achieving its sustainable development goals. In 2018, the NITI Aayog released a report titled "India's Energy Storage Mission," which aims to promote the domestic manufacturing of energy storage systems, including lithium-ion batteries. The report highlights the importance of reducing the cost of energy storage systems and developing a strong domestic manufacturing ecosystem for these systems.
Even if the news may be good, a fair interpretation that considers the region's ecological sensitivity is necessary. There are several effects of lithium mining on the ecosystem and environment. These include contamination of the land, water, and air. One estimate indicates that it requires around 2.2 million litres of water to generate one ton of lithium during the process of extracting lithium from its ore. An analysis of the socio-environmental effects of lithium ore extraction in 2018 found that mining for lithium has contributed to concerns with environmental justice. It claimed that throughout the previous four decades, insufficient study had been done to address the sustainability issues caused by lithium mining and processing, particularly the problem of its effects on local populations.
Additionally, the Himalaya is the world's youngest and most unstable mountain range (as evidenced by the ongoing Joshimath tragedy). There have also been reports of ground sinking from a village in the Doda region in the Chenab valley, which stretches into some areas of Reasi.
The discovery of lithium reserves in India has undoubtedly created a buzz in the sustainability world. The potential of this precious resource to power India's transition to renewable energy is immense, but we must also consider the possible socio-environmental effects of mining in densely populated areas. It is crucial to prioritize the public interest and prevent any significant environmental and social issues while exploring and extracting lithium. We need to use these reserves efficiently and strategically for the most critical aspects of the energy transition, tackling energy poverty and promoting sustainable development.
However, we cannot rely solely on lithium to achieve a fair transition to renewable energy. Reducing unnecessary consumption and encouraging the use of public transportation are equally important. We must ensure that the transition is just and equitable, leaving no one behind. The discovery of lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir is undeniably exciting, but we must temper our expectations. Exploration has only just begun, and we need more investigation to validate the anticipated resources and assess the feasibility of commercial exploitation.
Furthermore, the extraction of lithium from hard rock spodumene ore is a challenging, expensive, and energy-intensive process. India currently lacks the infrastructure and processing capacity needed for large-scale extraction. The politically sensitive topography of J&K and the continued classification of lithium as an atomic mineral add to the complexity of the situation.
To encourage private companies to engage in lithium mining, which will swiftly achieve efficiency and scale, the Ministry's plan to remove lithium from the atomic mineral category is a welcome step. But we must also ensure that the extraction and use of this valuable resource are carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner.
In conclusion, the discovery of lithium reserves in India is undoubtedly a game-changer, but we must tread carefully and thoughtfully. By prioritizing the public interest, promoting a fair transition to renewable energy, and using lithium efficiently and strategically, we can ensure a sustainable future for India and the world.
Do you think lithium will be the miracle cure for India's climate change issues or it is just a band-aid on a big problem. Let us know? Do you want to implement better solutions for your company. Then check this.
Authored by Shuchi Shukla, a final year research student at Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, MAHE. Her area of interest lies in the geopolitics of renewable energy and energy transition, health diplomacy in the Global south.