Lithium Reserves 

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        
output themes

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has achieved a significant milestone by establishing the first-ever 'inferred' Lithium resources (G3) of 5.9 million tonnes in the Salal-Haimana area of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir

Understanding Inferred Resources

  • Inferred mineral resources are characterized by a low level of confidence in their estimated quantity, grade, and mineral content.
  • These resources are based on data collected from sources such as outcrops, trenches, pits, workings, and drill holes, which may have limited or uncertain quality and lower reliability from geological evidence.
  • The classification of inferred resources is defined by the United Nations International Framework Classification for Reserves/Resources - Solid Fuels and Mineral Commodities of 1997 (UNFC-1997). 

Introducing UNFC-1997

  • UNFC-1997 is a standardized system developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe for the classification and reporting of reserves and resources of solid fuels and mineral commodities.
  • It ensures transparency, consistency, and comparability in reporting geological, engineering, and economic information related to reserves and resources.
  • Governments, industry, and financial institutions worldwide widely use UNFC-1997 for comparing data on reserves and resources between different countries and regions. 

Understanding Lithium

  • Overview: Lithium (Li), often referred to as 'White gold,' is a soft and silvery-white metal highly demanded for rechargeable batteries.
  • Extraction: Lithium can be extracted through solar evaporation of large brine pools or hard-rock extraction of the ore, depending on the deposit type.
  • Uses: Lithium is a crucial component in electrochemical cells used in electric vehicles (EVs), laptops, mobiles, and other devices. It is also used in thermonuclear reactions and in the production of alloys for lightweight materials. 

Global and Indian Lithium Reserves

Global and Indian Lithium Reserves

  • Major Global Lithium Reserves: Chile, Australia, and Argentina are the top countries with significant lithium reserves. The region known as the Lithium Triangle includes Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.
  • Lithium Reserves in India: A preliminary survey in Southern Karnataka's Mandya district estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes. Other potential sites for lithium reserves in India include mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, pegmatite belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, and Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. 

Current Lithium Demand and Imports in India

  • India currently relies on imports for lithium cells and batteries, with over 165 crore lithium batteries estimated to have been imported between FY17 and FY20, costing more than $3.3 billion.
  • The country's efforts to secure lithium sourcing agreements aim to reduce dependence on imports from China, the primary source of both raw materials and cells.
  • As India enters the EV market, it aims to overcome the late entry by securing domestic lithium sources. 

Significance of the Lithium Discovery

  • Assisting Target Achievements: India's commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 necessitates the availability of lithium for electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
    • The country's Central Electricity Authority estimates a requirement of 27 GW of grid-scale battery energy storage systems by 2030, requiring substantial amounts of lithium.
  • Addressing Global Shortages: The World Economic Forum has warned of global lithium shortages due to the increasing demand for EVs and rechargeable batteries, estimated to reach 2 billion by 2050.
    • Concentration of lithium resources in a few locations, with 54% found in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, puts the world's supply under strain. IEA predicts potential lithium shortages by 2025. 

Applications of Lithium

  • Lithium-ion batteries: Lithium's most well-known application is in rechargeable and lightweight lithium-ion batteries that power electronic devices, ranging from cell phones to laptops.
    • These batteries enable the storage of renewable energy from sources like solar and wind, power electric vehicles, and promote development through access to energy.
  • Other Uses: Lithium finds applications in pharmaceuticals, glass and ceramics production, aerospace and military industries for temperature control, and high-temperature lubricating greases. 

Challenges Associated with Lithium Extraction

  • Further Exploration: The GSI needs to conduct additional exploration to ascertain if the estimated lithium resources in Jammu and Kashmir are mineable reserves.
  • Accessibility and Purity: Detailed information regarding the accessibility and purity of inferred resources holds significant importance.
  • Technological Limitations: India currently lacks lithium extraction technologies, which need to be developed to exploit the discovered resources.
  • Geostrategic Concerns: Jammu and Kashmir's historical cross-border tensions, domestic insurgency, and terrorism pose challenges to resource extraction in the region.
  • Environmental Impact: Extracting lithium from hard rock mines involves processes like open-pit mining and roasting the ore using fossil fuels, leading to significant water consumption, CO2 emissions, depletion of waterways and groundwater, biodiversity loss, and air pollution.
    • Additionally, the unstable nature of the Himalayas raises concerns about land sinking incidents. 


The discovery of lithium reserves in India holds significant strategic importance as it reduces import dependence and promotes self-reliance in the transition to green energy. By proactively addressing the challenges and scaling up domestic lithium production, India can avoid repeating its history of fossil fuel imports and emerge as a key player in the electric vehicle supply chain. 

output themes