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World’s lithium supplies UPSC NOTE

 World’s lithium supplies 

  • Lithium, the silvery-white metal known for its crucial role in rechargeable batteries, has become a hot commodity in recent years. 

  • The surge in demand is driven by the booming electric vehicle (EV) industry, which relies heavily on lithium-ion batteries. 

  • This has raised concerns about the sustainability of our current lithium supplies.

  • Around 88 million tonnes of lithium are estimated to be present in the Earth's crust, but only a fraction of this amount is economically viable to extract.

  • Australia and Chile currently lead the pack, accounting for nearly 77% of global lithium production in 2022. 

  • Global lithium production reached over 634,000 metric tons in 2022 and is projected to exceed 2.14 million metric tons by 2030.

  • However, demand is expected to be even higher, with estimates ranging from 2.3 to 2.45 million metric tons by 2030. This could lead to a potential supply gap.

Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL)

  • The Mines Ministry, through the state-owned Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL), has entered into a draft exploration and development agreement with Argentinan miner CAMYEN for possible acquisition and development of five-odd lithium blocks.

  • The company has also entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Chilean miner ENAMI for ‘possible exploration, extraction, processing and commecialisation’ of the mineral and appointed consultancy major PwC for identification of investable projects in Australia.

  • Incidentally, Latin American nations, primarily Chile and Argentina, account for 30–35% of the world’s supplies. 

  • Chile, with 11% of the world’s lithium reserves, supplies 26% of the requirements; while Argentina with nearly a fifth of the global reserves supplies about 6%-odd

  • Australia is among the other large producers globally.

  • Talks are in ‘advanced stages’ for acquisition of lithium blocks in Argentina. 

  • The reported cost of the acquisition in Argentina could run into a ‘couple of hundred crore’ and the proposal would be put up for Cabinet approval.

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