Current Affairs

‘Discovery of India’s First ever Lithium Reserves in Karnataka’s Mandya’

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  • Published
    6th Feb, 2021
  • Context

    • GS-I- Geography: Distribution of Key Natural Resources Across the World
    • GS-III- Economy: Mobilisation of Resources, Types of Resources

    In a major development, India has discovered its maiden lithium deposits of 1,600 tonnes in the igneous rocks located in the Marlagalla-Allapatna region of Karnataka's Mandya district.

    Though the discovery is very small in size in the present, it marks an initial success for the nation's attempts to domestically mine the metal in India, which is in high demand for making electric vehicles (EV).

  • Background

    • India’s ambition of becoming a global hub for making electric vehicles faced one major hurdle: its lack of access to lithium.
    • Home to some of the most polluted cities on the planet, the South Asian nation is pivoting toward new-energy vehicles to clean up its toxic air.
    • But the issue is that lithium is not usually found in this part of the world. So India manufactured most of the components of an EV at home. It relies on China, Taiwan, and Japan for Lithium-ion batteries.
    • The import adds to the cost of an EV and stands in the way of India's goal to become a global hub for making EVs.
    • Luckily India has now found a new lithium reserve inside the country. This find could boost the local manufacturing of EV batteries.
      • The survey was done on the surface and limited subsurface in the pegmatites of Marlagalla - Allapatna area by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a constituent unit of the Department of Atomic Energy.

    Karnataka's Marlagalla-Allapatna area, along the Nagamangala Schist Belt, is being seen as among the most promising geological domains for potential exploration for lithium and other rare metals.

    • However, India has a long way to go. 2021 is expected to be a defining moment for EVs in India.
  • Analysis

    What is Lithium?

    • Lithium is a metal of utmost importance. It is everywhere today.
    • Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication, and aerospace industries.
    • The well-known uses of lithium are in lithium-ion batteries, lubricating grease, high energy additives to rocket propellants, optical modulators for mobile phones, and as a converter to tritium used as a raw material for thermonuclear reactions i.e. fusion.
    • It's the juice that powers our smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops, and even cars. This element is the driver of the technology age. And it could dictate the future of civilization.

    Important facts

    • The growing demand for Lithium in India is driven by the goal of the Indian government to become one of the largest electric vehicle markets world over.
      • NITI Ayog has set an ambitious target to increase the number of electric vehicles by 30 percent by 2030.

    The projected market

    While electric cars in India remain a small segment, with an estimated 3,000 sold in 2018 compared with the 3.4 million fossil fuel-powered cars in the same year, the nation is forecast to become the fourth-largest market for EVs by 2040, when the segment will comprise nearly a third of all vehicles sales.

    • India’s first Lithium plant has been set up at Gujarat in 2021, where Manikaran Power Limited will invest Rs 1000 crore to set up this refinery.
      • The refinery will use Lithium ore to produce base battery material.
    • Bolivia is the leading producer with 2.10 crore tonnes of lithium reserves, and Argentina has 1.70 crore tonnes of Lithium.
    • Chile has around 8.6 Mn tonnes, Australia has 2.8 Mn tonnes, and even Portugal has around 60K tonnes of lithium deposits.
    • In 2020, India signed an agreement with an Argentinian firm to jointly prospect lithium in the South American country that has the third-largest reserves of the metal in the world.
  • What are the advantages of lithium for the renewable sector?

    The element is promoted because it has a lot of potential in the renewable sector of the modern energy spectrum, some of its advantages include:

    • Lithium-ion batteries can serve as a solution for varied power demands across the spectrum. It can range from vast energy storage to portable energy storage solutions. They can thus be used as large or small batteries.
    • The lithium-ion battery has a high energy density. This implies Li-ion batteries can last way longer between charges while maintaining high current output. This makes it an ideal battery for most of our contemporary needs.
    • Li-ion batteries are low to minimum maintenance, most other cells like Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries have a huge cost of ownership and maintenance.
    • Li-ion batteries come in all shapes and sizes, giving the users many options to choose from according to their needs.
  • Conclusion

    India currently imports all its lithium needs. This discovery will reduce import dependency and promote make in India, along with Atmanirbhar Bharat in the energy sector. Lithium discovery is a crucial step to making India self-reliant in the renewable sector and achieves the energy goals. 

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