Parliamentarians show keen interest in J-K’s lithium mines

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JAMMU — Parliamentarians across the country on Monday have shown keen interest in recently discovered lithium mines in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.

As per the proceedings of the Parliament, which resumed after recess, many parliamentarians asked questions in the house related to lithium mines and the Government of India’s strategy to utilize its full potential.

BJP’s MP Jugalji Mathurji Thakor, Brij Lal and Trinamool Congress party’s Jawhar Sircar among many others asked the government to share the plan to utilize lithium extract in an optimum manner and timeline for the extraction of lithium.

The House also sought the viability to undertake the mining of said reserves and a plan outlined for the same with its timeline.

The government in a series of reply maintained that the Geological Survey of India (GSI) carried out a G3 stage project during Field Season 2020-21 and 2021-22 in Salal Haimna areas of Reasi district, Jammu & Kashmir following which estimated an inferred resource (G3) of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium ore and the report has been handed over to the Government of Union Territory of J&K.

“Geological Survey of India (GSI) generates baseline geoscience data through mapping, e.g. geological, geochemical, geophysical which is a prerequisite for identifying the potential area for systematic mineral exploration. Based on the mapping data, GSI carries out systematic mineral exploration activities for various major mineral commodities including lithium,” the government said in the Parliament.

“In part of Jammu & Kashmir, as a follow up of lithium exploration in Salal-Haimna areas of Reasi district, GSI has taken up another reconnaissance G4 stage exploration programme on lithium and associated mineral in Panasa – Dugga – Baldhanun – Chakar – Sangarmarg (Saro-da-Bas) area of Reasi district during current field season 2022-23 and the work is in progress,” the reply reads, adding, “Based on the mapping outcome, more exploration programme on various mineral commodities including lithium will be taken up in future in different parts of the country including Jammu & Kashmir.”

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On the exact valuation of the mine block and its potential, the government said that the mineral block will be auctioned as Composite License (CL) by the Government of Union Territory of J&K. The financial viability will be determined after auctioning by the successful bidder.

The likely date of extraction of lithium will depend upon the successful auction of the mineral block. However, sources said that the government is poised to invite bids for the auction of the newly discovered lithium reserves in Jammu as early as the June quarter. The move will give India access to the strategic mineral that helps power everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles.

Official sources further added that discoveries are not early-stage finds and the government plans to call for bids to start the process. “G-3 level find, which means we are sure of significant reserves and, hence, starting the process to mine this critical non-ferrous metal soon,” the official said.

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Based on United Nations Framework Classification (UNFC), which is a three-dimensional system considering geological, feasibility, and economic factors, the reserves are classified into four stages—G4 (reconnaissance), G3 (prospecting), G2 (general exploration) and G1 (detailed exploration).

The official added that the auctions would be open to all, like any other government auction, with one key condition: “The government would mandate that lithium found is refined only in India and not sent abroad for processing.”

India currently has no facility to refine lithium. However, the country has set an ambitious target of achieving 30% electric vehicle (EV) penetration in private cars, 70% for commercial vehicles, and 80% for two and three-wheelers by 2030 for the automobile industry.

The country requires lithium to fuel its energy transition target. The mineral is a key component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in electric-vehicle manufacturing and large-scale battery storage. The recent discovery of lithium reserves is set to bolster India’s access to this vital resource.

China controls 75% of the world’s lithium refining and India secures lithium from Hong Kong, China and the US. However, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has disrupted supply, spiking costs. Besides GSI, a consortium of three PSUs — National Aluminium Co., Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration Corp. — is working to provide a vehicle for research and development for recycling, acquisition and joint manufacturing of lithium-ion.

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