Coal and Mining Sector

Lithium deposits in Karnataka


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lithium ion batteries and their significance

Mains level: Lithium reserves in India

Alongside a move to tap into the global lithium value chain, India has initiated a concerted domestic exploration in Karnataka’s Mandya district.

Lithium reserves in Karnataka

  • Preliminary surveys by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), an arm of the Department of Atomic Energy has carried out the exploration.
  • AMD is carrying out surface and sub-surface exploration for lithium in potential geological domains of the country.
  • Their research has shown the presence of 1,600 tonnes of lithium resources in the igneous rocks of the Marlagalla-Allapatna region of Karnataka’s Mandya district.

Must read:

Global producers of lithium

  • Australia and Chile have swapped positions as the world’s leading lithium-producing country over the past decade. In 2019, the world’s Top 5 lithium producers were:
  1. Australia – 52.9% of global production
  2. Chile – 21.5%
  3. China – 9.7%
  4. Argentina – 8.3%
  5. Zimbabwe – 2.1%
  • The U.S. ranked 7th with 1.2% of the world’s lithium production.

In 2019, the world’s Top 5 lithium reserves by country were:

  1. Chile – 55.5% of the world’s total

  2. Australia – 18.1%

  3. Argentina – 11.0%

  4. China – 6.5%

  5. U.S. – 4.1%

Why is the exploration significant?

  • India currently imports all its lithium needs.
  • The find in Mandya is extremely small in quantitative terms, but it marks some initial success in the attempt to domestically mine the silver-white metal by way of hard-rock extraction of the ore.
  • The domestic exploration push comes at a time when India has stepped up its economic offensive against China, a major source of lithium-ion energy storage products being imported into the country.
  • The Marlagalla-Allapatna area is seen as among the most promising geological domains for potential exploration for lithium and other rare metals.

What lies ahead?

  • India is seen as a late mover in attempts to enter the lithium value chain, coming at a time when EVs are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption.
  • 2021 is likely to be an inflexion point for battery technology – with several potential improvements to the li-ion technology, and alternatives to this tried-and-tested formulation in advanced stages of commercialization.

Back2Basic: Li-Ion battery

  • Whittingham developed the first functional lithium-ion battery in 1976, Goodenough brought in a major improvement in 1980, while Yoshino made the first practical-use lithium-ion battery in 1985.
  • Commercially manufactured lithium-ion batteries, based on what Yoshino had developed, made their first appearance in 1991.

Its’ working

  • Batteries convert chemical energy into electricity.
  • A battery comprises two electrodes, a positive cathode and a negative anode, which is separated by a liquid chemical, called an electrolyte, which is capable of carrying charged particles.
  • The two electrodes are connected through an electrical circuit.
  • When the circuit is on, electrons travel from the negative anode towards the positive cathode, thus generating an electric current, while positively charged ions move through the electrolyte.

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