Reports of lithium deposits in Karnataka misleading: DAE

15 Feb 2021


The Department of Atomic Energy has issued a clarification on the various media reports that exploration by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) in Mandya district of Karnataka has established the presence of huge deposits of lithium minerals. 

DAE has clarified that the deposits of lithium minerals in the inferred category (low level of confidence) in Allapatna-Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna taluk of Mandya district is less than 1,600 tonnes and that the possibility of successful extraction of the mineral is yet to be established.
AMD, a constituent unit of the Department of Atomic Energy, and the Geological Survey of India are two agencies which are involved in mineral exploration.
This is a preliminary estimate and requires further exploration efforts to convert the estimated resources to exploitable category with high degree of confidence level and explore the possibility of augmenting Li resources in the area. Further, unless a proper technology/method is available to profitably extract lithium from its ore, the real benefit of exploration may not be there. With the data currently available with AMD, the actual economic benefits of the exploration cannot be estimated at this stage, says a DAE release.
Recent reports on lithium exploration and resource of Allapatna-Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna Taluk of Mandya district, published in various media had quoted the established deposits of lithium minerals the area to be as high as 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of surveyed area in Mandya district of Southern Karnataka. 
DAE has also clarified that AMD is the sole exploration agency which is exploring the area for spodumene (Li-mineral where Li2O is ~ 8 per cent) and niobium-tantalum (Nb2O5 and Ta2O5) minerals from pegmatite gravels since 1979 to 1998 (1st phase) and again since 2013 (2nd phase).
Likewise, on reports that exploratory work by AMD to extract lithium from brine pools of Rajasthan and Gujarat and the mica belts of Odisha and Chhattisgarh is ongoing, DAE said exploration by AMD is in preliminary and reconnaissance stage.
AMD, however, is carrying out exploration to augment lithium resources in other potential geological domains of the country. Further work in this direction is in progress, DAE stated.
Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication and aerospace industries. The well-known uses of lithium are in lithium-ion batteries, lubricating grease, high energy additive to rocket propellants, optical modulators for mobile phones and as convertor to tritium used as a raw material for thermonuclear reactions, ie, fusion.
The thermonuclear application makes Lithium a “Prescribed substance” under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, which authorises AMD to prospect for Lithium in various geological domains of the country. Due to the continuously increasing demand of Lithium ion batteries, the requirement of Lithium has increased over the last few years. Keeping the national interest in mind, AMD has intensified exploration for lithium in various geological domains of the country.
DAE said exploration is continuous process where data is dynamic and updated based on positive and negative results.

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