Lithium reserves found in Mandya district of Karnataka
19 February 2020
In a welcome development, a survey by the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) has established the presence of lithium in Karnataka’s Mandya, although the reserves are estimated to be small.
The Atomic Minerals Directorate, a unit of the Atomic Energy Commission, has estimated that around 14,100 tonnes of lithium reserves are present in the small patch of land in southern Karnataka.
The discovery of lithium reserves in India, although in small quantities, could be a big boost to local manufacturing of Electric Vehicle batteries.
Mandya is 100 km from Bengaluru in Karnataka.
"The present data provides a total estimation of available Li2O as about 30,300 tonnes over an area of 0.5 km x 5 km, which works out to about 14,100 tonnes of lithium metal," said N Munichandraiah, Emeritus Professor at the Indian Institute of Science and an expert on battery technologies.
The discovery also comes at a time when the Indian government has been pushing for an electric vehicle ecosystem. India imported lithium batteries worth $1.2 billion in 2019, up from $384 million in FY17.
In the first eight months of fiscal 2019-20 India's lithium battery imports stood at $929 million, according to minister of science and technology Harsh Vardhan.
The lithium reserves discovered in Mandya, however, are insignificant compared to deposits in countries like Chile, Australia and Argentina.
Since India has not made much effort to explore local lithium reserves, it currently relies on mines located in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
India is also yet to estimate its requirements - both current and future - of lithium. It has also not formulated a comprehensive plan to map local reserves of lithium. India has set up Khanij Bidesh India Ltd to source and acquire mines in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.