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Lithium Reserve UPSC NOTE


What is Lithium?

  • Lithium (Li) is a soft and silvery-white metal.

  • Lithium sometimes also referred as ‘White gold’ due to its high demand for rechargeable batteries.


  • Lithium is an important component of electrochemical cells used in batteries of EVs, Laptops, Mobiles etc.

  • It is also used in thermonuclear reactions.

  • It is used to make alloys with aluminium and magnesium, improving their strength and making them lighter.


  • Magnesium-lithium alloy - for armour plating.

  • Aluminum-lithium alloys - in aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.

Importance of it

  • Green economy: Lithium-ion batteries are used in wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles, all of which are crucial in a green economy.

  • According to World Bank demand for critical metals such as lithium (Li) and cobalt is expected to rise by nearly 500% by 2050.

  • Ongoing global transition to low-carbon economies, the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G networks will greatly reshape global and regional geopolitics.

  • The access to and control over rare minerals, such as lithium and cobalt, will play a crucial role in these epochal changes.

India’s lithium reserve

  • In February 2023, the Geological Survey of India has for the first-time established Lithium ‘inferred’ resources(G3) of 5.9 million tonnes in  Salal-Haimana area of Reasi district of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir.

  • In India: Preliminary survey showed reserves in a small patch of land surveyed in Southern Karnataka’s Mandya district.

    • Mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh.

    • Pegmatite belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

    • Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

What is the status of India’s lithium industry?

  • The global and Indian electric vehicle market is projected to rise by 2030.

  • India is seeking to secure its critical mineral supplies and build self-sufficiency in this sector.

  • As India currently imports all of its Li from Australia and Argentina and 70% of its Li-ion cell requirement from China and Hong Kong.

  • India imported 450 million units of lithium batteries valued at ₹6,600 crore in 2019-2020, which makes the development of the country’s domestic lithium reserves a matter of high stakes.

  • The lithium reserves in J&K could boost the domestic battery-manufacturing industry.

  • If the perceived size of the mineral reserves in J&K is borne out by further exploration, India could jump ahead of China vis-à-vis its Li stockpile.

Who should own these minerals?

  • In July 2013, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled that the owner of the land has rights to everything beneath, “down to the centre of the earth”.

  • Yet, large areas of land, including forests — which make up more than 22% of India’s landmass — hills, mountains, and revenue wasteland are publicly owned.

  • The Supreme Court also recalled that the Union government could always ban private actors from mining sensitive minerals, 

    • as is already the case with uranium under the Atomic Energy Act 1962. 

    • In today’s context, lithium is as important as, if not more than, uranium.

How do other countries manage lithium reserves?

  • Chile and Bolivia — which have the largest known reserves of lithium — are particularly instructive.

  • In Chile, the government has designated lithium as a strategic resource and its development has been made the exclusive prerogative of the state.

  • In Bolivia - Government nationalised lithium and adopted a hard line against private and foreign participation.

  • In Mexico - nationalised lithium.

  • The national governments of these countries exercise a significant degree of control, the nature of private sector participation varies between these countries.

Steps to be taken

  • The appropriate development of this sector will require a very high level of effectiveness on the part of the Indian state.

  • Much of India’s mineral wealth is mined from regions with very high levels of poverty, environmental degradation, and lax regulation.

  • Effective and careful management of the sector should be paramount if India’s rare minerals development is to meet its multiple goals — social wellbeing, environmental safety, and national energy security.

  • The region Reasi is in the relatively more stable Jammu region, the Union territory of J&K has been the site of historical cross-border tensions between India and Pakistan, domestic insurgency, and terrorism.

  • If the local population isn’t meaningfully engaged in the impending Li extraction project, the resulting tension could introduce new frontiers of socio-environmental conflict.

  • Equally importantly, the most effective use of Li reserves should be for the most important parts of the renewable-energy transition, which would also aid the goals of addressing energy poverty and sustainable development.

  • To these ends, reducing luxury consumption and promoting public transport should also be an important part of the agenda of a just transition.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Lithium Reserve UPSC NOTE
Lithium Reserve UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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