Deposit Of Lithium Push India To Top 5 | Lithium in Jammu and Kashmir, India
The Geological Survey of India produced a paper in 1997 outlining how Jammu and Kashmir may have lithium deposits. Nevertheless, no further action was taken in response to the report. On February 9th, 26 years later, India’s Ministry of Mines made a historic statement. Massive lithium resources have been discovered for the first time in India’s history in the Salal-Haimana area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi District.
Deposits of 5.9 million tons have been identified. This finding is significant since India now possesses the world’s fifth biggest lithium deposits. Because of its great demand and rarity, lithium is often referred to as “white gold.” In fact, the price of lithium has increased by 900% in the previous two years. You read that correctly—900%! Lithium is a light metal that is an important component of the batteries used in many modern gadgets. Yet, the most important application of lithium is in electric car batteries.
The worldwide EV market is anticipated to be worth more than $800 billion by 2030. This implies enormous bucks for Indian businesses and, ultimately, the entire country. China now leads the manufacture of EV batteries. Contemporary Amperex Technologies Ltd. (CATL) of China makes 34% of the world’s batteries. This firm also provides batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles. Therefore, with the finding of lithium deposits, can India become an EV powerful country?
What is lithium and how its used in manufacturing of lithium batteries?
Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson. While working in his laboratory in 1817, he discovered the presence of a new silvery-white element. This element was both light and reactive. It was called lithium from the Greek word lithos, which means “stone.” While lithium was discovered in 1817, it took humanity more than a century to realize its full potential. A global crisis acted as a motivating element in this case. The globe had an energy crisis in the 1970s. Several Arab nations were at war, and the latter had chosen to stop supplying oil to the United States. This is due to the United States’ backing for Israel.
At this period, the English scientist Stanley Whittingham began to investigate the concept of a new battery. Stanley Whittingham worked for ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil firms. Stanley intended to create a rechargeable battery that would minimize humanity’s reliance on oil. Lithium was selected for this battery because it is light and electrochemical.
Electrochemical materials can generate an electric current through internal chemical processes. Stanley Whittingham began developing a few prototypes, but the batteries failed and caught fire. A few years later, an American scientist and a Japanese scientist developed the first lithium-ion battery prototype.
Lithium-ion battery components
A lithium-ion battery has four major components: a cathode, an anode, a separator, and an electrolyte. The anode is the battery’s negative end. The cathode is the battery’s positive end. Electrons go from the negative to the positive end of a lithium-ion battery. They are then kept on the positive end. These stored electrons provide energy that may be used to power computers, phones, and other devices.
An electrolyte is a specific liquid that lies between the anode and the cathode and acts as a conduit for electrons to pass through. A separator is a thin layer that exists between the anode and the cathode. If they make touch, the battery may short circuit. A lithium-ion battery contains additional elements in addition to lithium. For instance, graphite is mixed with lithium to make the anode.
Uses of Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium is combined with either cobalt or nickel to create the cathode. Sony commercialized this technology and began using lithium-ion batteries in its electrical goods in 1991. Lithium-ion batteries were utilized in electronic devices such as computers, cameras, phones, and so on. Lithium-ion batteries are used in large industrial machinery and satellites.
90% of lithium-ion batteries are not utilized in consumer electronics. They are instead employed in electric cars, or EVs. Things take a drastic turn at this point. The Tesla Model 3 is shown here. If you believe that electric vehicles are a recent innovation, you are mistaken. EVs were also available 100 years ago. They appeared to be like this. EVs made up roughly 33% of all automobiles in the United States in the 1900s.
Lead-acid batteries take longer to charge and deplete fast. This signifies that these batteries have a low range. During the next 50 years, hardly one paid attention to electric vehicles. Nevertheless, this altered in the 1970s. The Arab countries were at war at the time.
Two Types Of Batteries
The industrialized countries began to consider measures to minimize their reliance on oil. This resulted in the development of two types of batteries: nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion. These batteries outperformed lead-acid batteries in terms of efficiency. Yet they were also pricey. As a result, petrol and diesel vehicles remained more cost-effective. Nickel-metal hydride batteries were introduced in the twenty-first century.
Toyota began using these batteries in hybrid vehicles. Hybrid vehicles may run on both gasoline and diesel fuel. The lithium-ion batteries were also in use, but it was thought that they were very unstable, i.e., combustible. But, as R&D progressed, EV vehicle manufacturers began to use lithium-ion batteries. That is why lithium-ion batteries power 90% of EVs.
Lithium-ion batteries provide several advantages. They have an extremely high energy density. This implies that these batteries can store more energy in a less amount of area. Another advantage is that these batteries are lightweight due to the low weight of lithium. A lighter battery equals a lighter automobile. A lightweight vehicle also gets better gas mileage. Lithium-ion batteries have a self-discharge rate of. The self-discharge rate of lithium-ion batteries is relatively low.
The amount of energy lost when the battery is not in use is referred to as the self-discharge rate. The demand for lithium-ion batteries is expected to increase sevenfold during the next eight years. You’re fully aware of the growing global demand for EVs. The Indian government claims that by 2030, 30% of private automobiles on Indian roads would be electric vehicles. That is why every Indian celebrates the finding of the lithium resource. It’s like if India discovered ‘white’ gold.
India capable of producing lithium-ion batteries
The supply chain of lithium-ion batteries is controlled by one nation —China. There are five phases involved in the production of lithium-ion batteries. Mining is the first stage. The Lithium triangle is predominantly controlled by four countries: Australia and three South American countries.
Last year, India imported lithium worth INR 13000 crore. The batteries may have the term ‘lithium,’ but can also contain other elements. Cobalt and nickel are two examples. Even if we have access to lithium, we will still need to import components such as cobalt, nickel, and magnesium. 60% of the world’s cobalt is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an African country.
Interestingly, Chinese corporations control about 70% of the country’s mining sector. The second stage is to refine. High-purity materials are required for batteries. As a result, materials such as lithium and nickel must be purified. China also has a stronghold in this sector. Although China holds 13% of the world’s lithium reserves, it processes 58% of the lithium.
Chinese businesses have reached a billion-dollar agreement with Bolivia that would allow them to extract lithium from Bolivia and process it in China. Even Australia’s largest lithium mine is mostly controlled by a Chinese corporation. The next phase is to manufacture cell components such as cathodes, anodes, electrolytes, and separators.
China Controls the Supply Chain of Lithium Ion Batteries
Who controls 78% of the world’s cathode production? —China. Who controls 66% of the world’s anode production? —China. Who manufactures 43% of the world’s separators? —China. Who controls the processing of key materials? —China.
I hope you grasp the essence of what I’m saying. The battery pack will be manufactured next. This is the most sophisticated technical phase. The individual cells are assembled using a Battery Management System at this process. Essentially, the Battery Management System regulates the battery’s operation. These procedures consume a lot of energy. They are carried out under carefully regulated settings that must be free of moisture and contaminants.
As a result, superior technology and a world-class plant are required. Three businesses produce 65% of the world’s batteries: Samsung in Korea, Panasonic in Japan, and CATL in China. CATL owns 34% of the world’s battery manufacturing. That is why India and the United States are agitated. Because China owns the majority of the lithium-ion battery supply chain.
If India or the United States went to war with China, China might simply shut off the supply of batteries, leaving Indians and Americans in a difficult situation. Yet, there is another reason why India should produce its own batteries. China supplies approximately 60% of the components required for the manufacture of battery packs in India. Nevertheless, these imported components are not appropriate for the Indian environment.
These components cannot tolerate high temperatures in India’s tropical environment. This reduces battery charging efficiency and makes them more prone to catching fire. For the batteries to resist the blazing heat of Rajasthan and the icy cold of Leh-Ladakh, India must produce the components suited for this variable climate. Numerous Indian firms have been producing lithium-ion batteries. Nevertheless, these businesses lack control over the supply chain.
They construct the batteries by importing necessary components from other countries. Companies like Ola, Ather, and Amara-Raja do this. As a result, the Indian businesses have no control over the raw materials or the fabrication of the cell and its components. We purchase pre-assembled cells and combine them into batteries.
Yet, the Indian government is attempting to effect change. It has launched an incentive program for firms manufacturing cells in India. Under this initiative, companies like as Toshiba and Suzuki are producing cells in India. India now has an advantage: low labor costs. In fact, according to one study, India is one of the cheapest countries to manufacture a cell phone. Nonetheless, there are several obstacles to overcome.
Manufacturing of Lithium batteries
As I mentioned, you need state-of-the-art facilities to manufacture cells for the batteries. Thus, you need skilled workers and advanced technology. You can procure technology in no time, but skilled workers aren’t produced overnight. Another challenge is that India would’ve to rely on other countries to import key components and materials. For example, an Indian company called Epsilon Carbon manufactures anodes for the cells as graphite is readily available in India. But what about the cathodes and the electrolytes?
India lacks critical raw resources for their manufacture. The finding of lithium riches does not imply an influx of wealth into the nation. Therefore, first and foremost, let us try to decipher what the Geological Survey of India indicated in its statement. When a mineral deposit is discovered, geologists categorize it. The Geological Survey of India authorities classified this discovery as ‘inferred’ in the G3 level. What does this imply?
According to the United Nations, there are four stages of exploration for any mineral deposit. The first step is called G4, which involves deciding if the area containing the deposit is worthy of further investigation. The final stage is called G1, which involves a detailed exploration of the area.
The exploration of any mineral deposit is done after establishing these two aspects: 1. Quantity, which is usually measured in tones. 2. Grade or quality. The quantity and grade determine the value of the mineral.
Whenever geologists discover a mineral deposit, they put it under a category depending on how confident they are with the discovery. These three categories are—inferred, indicated, and measured. The ‘inferred’ tag means the geologists have lower confidence in the discovered resource.
The ‘measure’ tag, on the other hand, denotes a higher level of certainty. The Geological Survey of India has now classified the newly discovered deposits as ‘G3 stage’ under the ‘inferred’ category. This signifies that the geologists aren’t confident enough in the deposits to move on to the following two phases. As a result, India should not throw up its hands and declare a break. There is a lot of work to be done. The finding of lithium deposits in Jammu and Kashmir does not imply that we have struck gold.
Lithium-ion batteries become out of fashion
Several battery technologies have the potential to replace lithium-ion batteries in the future. A solid-state battery is a new type of battery on the market. In comparison to a lithium-ion battery, this battery can store more energy in a given area. It’s also safer than lithium-ion batteries. With solid-state batteries, the charged particle travels quicker. As a result, these batteries may be charged quickly. Hydrogen-powered automobiles are also making headlines. These vehicles would use hydrogen fuel instead of batteries. They would run on the electric current generated by the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. This implies you won’t have to charge your vehicle. You only need to drive to a gas station and fill your vehicle with hydrogen.
Another alternative is the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. It’s not feasible to keep manufacturing new batteries. We must opt to recycle them. Now, all three alternatives —solid-state batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and recycling lithium-ion batteries— are pretty expensive due to a lack of research in the domain. If in the future, these alternatives become cheaper, lithium-ion batteries might go out of fashion.
Another issue is that lithium extraction is not environmentally favorable. The ore is heated to a high temperature throughout the mining and refining process. The most cost-effective method is to use fossil fuels, which emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One ton of lithium mining produces 15 tons of carbon dioxide.
Apart from that, the procedure needs a large volume of water. A ton of lithium needs around 22 lakh gallons of water. Water is already scarce in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi area. This area used to have plenty of water, but development projects have drained the supply.
Also, the groundwater in this area has been drained. Residents were forced to drink contaminated water in 2018 owing to a lack of water. Hundreds of instances of diarrhea and dysentery resulted from this. Similar problems have been seen in other places of the world. A harmful chemical spill from a Lithium mine in Tibet poisoned a neighboring river and harmed its environment in 2009. According to one local, “the entire river stank, and it was filled with dead yaks and dead fish.” That is why people have started protesting against lithium mining. Residents in Portugal, for example, objected against lithium mining because they were concerned about pollution of the irrigation system.
Similarly, citizens in Argentina were concerned about extreme water shortages caused by mining. Mining resources may help the globe, but it comes at the expense of misery for the people who live near mines. As a result, it would be the Indian government’s responsibility to gain the trust of the people living near the mine and guarantee them that the mining operation would be safe. If everything goes as planned, this finding will be nothing short of a windfall for India.