India is set to start exploring for lithium in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as well as one more block in Jammu and Kashmir, later this year. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) will undertake exploration in these areas during the field season of 2023-24, according to a Mines Ministry official. The two states have been identified as probable locations for lithium exploration due to their geological and topographical similarities to the Jammu and Kashmir region.
Lithium, an alkali metal, is a critical component in rechargeable batteries used in various devices such as mobiles, laptops, electric vehicles, and medical devices such as pacemakers. It is also used in energy storage solutions. Currently, India imports all major components required for lithium-ion cell manufacturing.
India's largest and only known lithium block discovery is located in the Salal Haimana area of the Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir. The inferred resource is approximately 5.9 million tonnes, mainly in rock form. The Union Territory is planning to auction the blocks, and officials from the Mines Ministry said that Korean and Japanese companies have expressed interest in the reserve.
The GSI is also exploring the Panasa-Dugga-Baldhanum-Chakar-Sangarmarg region in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. As per a reply in the Rajya Sabha, India's lithium-ion import bill, which covers electric accumulators, including separators, was INR 18,554.12 crore in the ten months of FY23 (April-January), with nearly 76% of these imports coming from China. In contrast, lithium imports, which cover primary cells and batteries, stood at approximately INR 209 crore for the same period. China and Hong Kong are the top two countries from where these imports are sourced, accounting for 30% and 25% of the total, respectively.
In FY22, India's imports for lithium-ion were INR 13,673.15 crore, while for lithium, they were INR 165.08 crore. The government's push for local manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries aims to reduce India's dependence on imports and promote indigenous production. The exploration of lithium reserves in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir is expected to boost local production and provide a fillip to the country's manufacturing capabilities.