Lithium is important from a global market perspective due to its increasing demand in various sectors, such as the production of batteries, electric vehicles, and consumer electronics. Lithium is a lightweight metal that has excellent electrochemical properties, making it an ideal material for batteries. As the world is shifting towards clean energy and sustainable transportation, the demand for lithium has skyrocketed. According to market reports, the global Lithium –ion battery market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.2% from 2021 to 2028, reaching $129.3 billion by 2028.
The growing demand for Lithium batteries in electric vehicles, grid storage, and portable electronics is driving the lithium market's growth. Moreover, lithium is also used in pharmaceuticals, glass, ceramics, and lubricants, making it a versatile material with numerous applications. The increasing demand for lithium has also led to the development of lithium mining projects worldwide, creating job opportunities and boosting economic growth in many regions.
The discovery of 5.9 million tonnes of Lithium has been done in the J&K region of India, which would simply translate to Rs 38 Lakh crore in worth. India's dependence on the import of EV batteries, laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic devices would be significantly reduced since the discovery of a 5.9 million tonnes lithium reserve in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district which is the second biggest deposits in the world, next to Chilli with 8 million tonnes.
The country’s first Lithium reserve in J & K is of the best quality, as reported by the experts. The reserve can help meet India's expanding EV industry's lithium demand. Since the commercialisation of lithium-ion batteries in the 1990s, significant technological advancements have put lithium at the forefront, according to Austrade, (The Australian Trade and Investment Commission) and Australian government's trade, investment and education promotion agency. It is the driving force behind the revolution in smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices.
Lithium is an extremely reactive, alkaline, and light non-ferrous metal. It is mostly employed in the manufacturing of ceramics and glassware, greases, medicinal compounds, air conditioners, and aluminium, among other things. Due to its maximum energy storage capacity per kilograms, it is an ideal option for electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla due to its enormous energy storage capacity and incredibly low weight. The Geological Survey of India, which also evaluates India's mineral resources, discovered 5.9 million tonnes of lithium resources - a first for the nation - in the Salal-Haimana region of Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district, according to a report released on February 9 by the Indian Ministry of Mines. During the 62nd Central Geological Programming Board meeting that day, the Ministry of Mines presented a report on this, 15 additional resource-bearing geological reports, and 35 geological memoranda to the relevant state governments.
“For the first time, lithium reserves have been discovered and that too in Jammu and Kashmir. The soft, shining grey metal is one that is crucial in the modern world. Among other things, it's utilised to construct the essential batteries for electric vehicles. Hence, "white gold" was given. If India had its own lithium reserves, it wouldn't need to rely as heavily on imports as it does now to meet its demands. Given the push for electric vehicles, India's needs for lithium are also probably going to increase. Reserves of Lithium are also rare; there are 98 million tonnes of lithium in the world. India has now discovered around 5.5 per cent of these resources.
The lithium deposit in Jammu and Kashmir may contain a significant amount of lithium, however it is currently insufficient to compare to the top lithium reserves in the world. Australia has 6.3 million tonnes of lithium, Bolivia has 21 million tonnes, and Argentina has 17 million tonnes, as reported by the Mint. China, however, is the source of 4.5 million tonnes of the light metal. In 2020, China will be the third-largest providerof lithium in the world, owning a total of 7.9% of the world's lithium reserves. Since South America is a particularly rich supply of the metal, the three nations of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina are collectively referred to as the "Lithium Triangle.
“A US-based committee claims that between 2018 and 2020, China spent $16 billion on mining operations abroad to explore for lithium. It also made investments in the "lithium triangle" region of South America. Furthermore, China is the world's leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles. According to a research by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, mostly because of its early investment in Australia's main mining output activities. Beijing currently has 55 per cent of the chemical lithium supply needed for battery-powered electric vehicles. It is currently increasing its power in the lithium triangle as well.
The principal owner of the Cauchar-Olaroz facility in Argentina, thought to be one of the world's top lithium producing mines, is China's Ganfeng Lithium. Additionally, it is one of the largest EV battery suppliers to India. Given India's fraught relationship with the dragon over territorial disputes, this is a matter of concern. Owning more of these lithium sources and strengthening India's position in foreign lithium mines are crucial if India is to become self-sufficient in the field of EV production and stop depending on China for EV battery supplies.
EV batteries contain a few grams of lithium, which is best described as being comparable to half a teaspoon of sugar. 5,000 battery cells and 10 kg of lithium are both potential requirements for an EV. 90 electric cars' worth of demand can be supplied by one tonne of lithium, as reported by Money Control. These batteries are lithium-ion and contain numerous distinct cells. One million electric automobiles require around 60,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent.
Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla, stated in a recent tweet that 30 million electric cars must be created by 2027, which would require 1.8 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent. This would require a 473 percent increase in output of lithium carbon equivalent to 1.8 million tonnes from levels in 2019.By 2030, Tesla itself plans to boost its capacity for producing batteries by at least 50 times, to three terawatt hours. This would take $7 billion (Rs 51,025 crore) in investments, but that amount is significantly less when taking batteries and auto production into account. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are favoured and accounted for 54 per cent of the metal's demand in 2019. In addition to having a higher energy density and a longer life cycle with less maintenance, they are scalable.
India, which has mostly relied on imports for the mineral, now has hope with the finding of a large reserve. The fact that the majority of the global reserve is located in regions with severe water stress makes this discovery even more important. India is a potential replacement because the mineral requires a large amount of water for extraction and the majority of the reserves are in nations with water shortages.
EVs aren't the only thing that use lithium; it's also used in the medical field, in electronics that run our phones, in solar panels, and in other renewable technologies essential for the switch to clean energy. The discovery might mark the start of a new era for the entire world as well as India.
(The views expressed are personal)