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India's New Found Lithium Reserves: What does it mean for the future of EVs?

When James W. Marshall, a carpenter by profession, found gold while working at a sawmill in California, many thought it was just a rumor. The discovery of gold in California was a culturally, socially, and economically significant discovery for American history and world history too.

gold rush miners black and white photograph
Gold rush miners in California, United States | Western Mining History

People from more than 25 countries flocked to California, to get their hands on the newly discovered precious metal in the middle of nowhere.

The gold rush led to California becoming a state, and San Francisco becoming one of the major cities, affected the Native American population drastically, and gave birth to a largely immigrant population that the United States has today.

The times were different, and so was the United States as a country at that point in time.

Let’s come back to India now. The recent Lithium reserves found in Jammu & Kashmir by the Geological Survey of India are turning out to be a major discovery, that can eventually shape India’s future and its tryst with electric vehicles.

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Lithium Reserves in J&K: What’s the catch here?

lithium stones jammu kashmir india electric vehicles battery
Lithium found in Jammu & Kashmir | Credits: Deccan Herald

According to a report released on February 9th, the Geological Survey of India notified about the newly discovered lithium reserves in the Salal-Haimana region of Jammu & Kashmir.

The report further states that the total reserves found in the region are estimated to be about 5.9 million tonnes. To give you a context, China has total lithium reserves of 6.8 million tonnes.

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The recent discovery in Jammu & Kashmir by GSI makes India the country with the seventh-largest lithium reserves in the world.

If the current Lithium prices are to be considered worth ₹34 trillion or USD 410 billion at the current exchange rate.

India’s Lithium Reserves: Where Do We Stand Currently?

graph of largest lithium producing countries in the world
Largest Lithium Supplying Countries | Soruce: Statista

The recent discovery of Lithium reserves in Jammu & Kashmir will certainly provide the required impetus for the utility of the metal, and the industries relying on it, further reducing the huge import bills at the moment.

Although, things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Taking a bird’s eye account of this discovery gives a better context to the entire situation.

When you look at the Lithium reserves present across the world, the 5.9 million tonnes seem rather small.

According to data presented by S&P Global, the three South American countries of Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, also referred to as the ‘Lithium Triangle’, consists of some of the largest quantities of lithium reserves in the world.

However, the three countries don’t have a lot of production going on at the moment.

The resource-rich continent of Latin America consists of about 60% of the world’s lithium reserves. Further, if we look at a country-wise division of lithium resources, Australia, China, and the United States command a majority of the lithium resources.

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Before the recent J&K reserves came into the picture, India had a mere 1,600-tonne reserve which was discovered in Mandya, Karnataka. Although, according to further research it was found that the reserves weren't commercially viable.

A Boon For EVs?: Should the Indian EV Industry Celebrate Yet?

BluSmart cab charging in Delhi

The Indian EV industry has had quite a promising few years. In the last five years, the industry has come from entering the market to now competing with the bigger players in the ICE segment even.

The importance of Lithium hasn't remained a secret anymore. The newly discovered reserves in Jammu & Kashmir are a positive sign for an import-reliant country like India, which has usually been focusing on procuring metal from other countries.

India's ambitious target of having 30% of private electric vehicles plying on Indian roads by 2030, might get an impetus from this discovery.

Although, there are certain things to understand here. While the quality of the Lithium found in Jammu & Kashmir is of very high quality, assessments are required to assess the economic viability of the same.

After a thorough assessment, if the Lithium reserves found in Jammu & Kashmir are considered to be of top quality and fit for use, India will become a country with the sixth largest reserves of Lithium in the world.

Conclusion: A Massive Advantage for the Indian EV Industry?

blusmart cab charging in delhi
Onwards and upwards from hereon? | Let's wait and watch

The lithium reserves' discovery in Jammu & Kashmir is definitely something we should look up to as a nation progressing towards the adoption of EVs.

However, there are a few things to be taken care of, before we move ahead and celebrate.

Firstly, lithium extraction and processing is a costly affair. Miners need to extract a large amount of groundwater and need a robust infrastructure to extract lithium.

Secondly, the Himalayas being a geologically volatile region, conducting extraction activities at such a large level might come at a cost.

It is only after the final research is conducted, it'll be known whether the Lithium found is fit for use.

The government and/or private players which might be deployed should take all these factors into consideration before we are able to boast about our 'Lithium Superpower' status.

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