OWNERSHIP OF LITHIUM RESERVES
- Recent, news of potentially significant reserves of lithium, an element needed to manufacture batteries used in electric cars and other renewable energy infrastructure, in Jammu and Kashmir has been welcomed universally.
STATUS OF INDIA’S LITHIUM INDUSTRY:
- India’s electric vehicle (EV) market was valued at $383.5 million in 2021.
- It is expected to expand to $152.21 billion in 2030.
- India imported 450 million units of lithium batteries valued at $929.26 million (₹6,600 crore) in 2019-2020, which makes the development of the country’s domestic lithium reserves a matter of high stakes.
- Scholars have argued that the ongoing global transition to lowcarbon 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.
APPLICATION OF LITHIUM:
- In 2021, most lithium is used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric cars and mobile devices.
- Lithium oxide is widely used as a flux for processing silica, reducing the melting point and viscosity of the material and leading to glazes with improved physical properties including low coefficients of thermal expansion. Worldwide, this is one of the largest use for lithium compounds.
- The third most common use of lithium is in greases. Lithium hydroxide is a strong base and, when heated with a fat, produces a soap made of lithium stearate.
- Lithium has been found effective in assisting the perfection of silicon nano-welds in electronic components for electric batteries and other devices.
- Lithium fluoride, artificially grown as crystal, is clear and transparent and often used in specialist optics for IR, UV and VUV (vacuum UV) applications. It has one of the lowest refractive indexes and the furthest transmission range in the deep UV of most common materials.
- Lithium-6 is valued as a source material for tritium production and as a neutron absorber in nuclear fusion.
- Natural lithium contains about 7.5% lithium-6 from which large amounts of lithium-6 have been produced by isotope separation for use in nuclear weapons.
- Lithium is useful in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
OWNERSHIP OF LITHIUM RESERVES:
- 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 OTHER COUNTRIES MANAGE LITHIUM RESERVES :
- Chile, Australia, Argentina, China, US are a few of the countries in the world with the largest overall lithium reserves, regardless of their stage of development.
- Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile make up the “lithium triangle.” The three countries, along with Peru, contain about 67% of proven lithium reserves and produce about half of the global supply, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
- In Chile, the government has designated lithium as a strategic resource and its development has been made the exclusive prerogative of the state.
- The state has licensed only two companies — SQM and Albemarle — to produce lithium in the country.
- In April 2023, Chile’s president Gabriel Boric announced a new “National Lithium Strategy”, which many in the corporate sector took to be a declaration of his intention to nationalise the industry.
- On the contrary, Mr. Boric has clarified that his government would honour existing contracts.
- As a supplement, the new strategy calls for public-private partnerships for future lithium projects, which will allow the state to regulate the environmental impact of lithium-mining, distribute the revenue from lithium production more fairly among local communities, and promote domestic research into lithium based green technologies.
- As India explores and develops its own lithium reserves, it is notable that 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.
SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-3 INDIAN ECONOMY
SOURCE: THE HINDU