1. Introduction – state about recent Li discoveries.
  2. Mention Li’s importance for India.
  3. Chart out the steps taken by the government till now.

First traces of Lithium in India were discovered in Karnataka’s Mandya district recently. The preliminary find is relatively small: a mere 1,600 tonnes of lithium deposits. If oil powered the world in the 20th century, Lithium could play the same role in the 21st century. So, the discovery is being attached importance at the highest levels of government. This also shows the amount of effort and investment that lithium is likely to garner in the years ahead.

Lithium’s Importance for India :

  • Climate change mitigation: Technologies such as lithium-ion batteries are slated to play a key role in India’s plan to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its climate change mitigation commitments.
  • Energy Transition: At the heart of the transition from an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle to an electric vehicle is the battery, which accounts for at least 30% of the vehicle’s cost. And the key to the battery pack is lithium.
  • Electric mobility: Government schemes like Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India or FAME (India) has given impetus to adoption of e-mobility vehicles. By 2030, nearly three-fourth of Indian two-wheelers and all new cars are expected to be EVs and a bulk of them will be powered by lithium batteries.
  • Energy security: According to the Central Electricity Authority, the country will need 27 GW of grid-scale battery energy storage systems by 2030. Hence, this will require massive amounts of lithium.

Steps Taken By Government:

  • India had recently unveiled its strategy for developing a battery storage ecosystem. It involves setting up at least 50-gigawatt hour manufacturing capacity for advanced chemistry cell batteries.
  • 18,100-crore Production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to manufacture lithium-ion cells within the country has been introduced. With the government’s PLI scheme, demand for lithium is bound to increase as it opens new opportunities for domestic exploration.
  • It formed Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL)— a joint venture comprising National Aluminium Co. Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd and Mineral Exploration Co. Ltd. it is looking to acquire cobalt and lithium mines KABIL is also exploring the direct purchase of cobalt and lithium.
  • The government is also trying to secure government-to-government (G2G) deals. For instance, a recent case in point is India’s bilateral agreement with Argentina for securing strategic minerals. India and the US are also looking at setting up an alternative supply chain for lithium.
  • Lithium exploration : Apart from the discovery in Karnataka’s Mandya district, the Geological Survey of India has taken up seven other lithium exploration projects in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan.
  • Role of the private sector : Several automobile majors are planning to jointly develop a manufacturing facility in Gujarat, which could eventually transform into a global export hub for lithium-ion cells.
  • India is working on the world’s largest grid-scale battery storage programme, which includes a 13 gigawatt-hour (GWh) facility in Ladakh and a 14 GWh system in Kutch. Large battery storage can store and reconvert electricity helping India’s electricity grids, given the intermittent nature of power from clean energy sources.

India should also try to intensify exploration within as well and exploit the opportunity to re-purpose and recycle used lithium-ion batteries.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish August 1, 2022