India’s KABIL (Khanij Bidesh India Ltd) will invest ₹211 crore ($ 25.712 million) over a five-year-period for exploration stage activities of five lithium blocks in Fiambala area of Argentina. An exploration and development agreement in this regard is expected to be signed with CAMYEN, a state-owned miner in Argentina’s Catamarca province, later this month, Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister of Mines, told businessline.

Incidentally, the KABIL board approved proposals of signing an exploration and development agreement with CAMYEN and opening of branch office in Catamarca; as well as the investment proposal towards exploration stage activities of the five lithium blocks in June last year.

“Approval of Ministry of Mines, for the above proposals has also been received in December. As mutually agreed with CAMYEN, the agreement is planned to be signed in January 2024i n Argentina and with that, the maiden project of KABIL will be launched,” Joshi said.

Officials from the State-run KABIL, a JV of NALCO, MECL and Hindustan Copper Ltd, along with NITI Aayog visited Chile, Bolivia and Argentina “for possible cooperation in lithium mining assets in October 2019”.

Discussions with Australia, Russia was also started through Missions and Embassies subsequently, Joshi said.

An MoU was signed with CAMYEN, as early as in December 2020 “to establish institutional co-operation for joint development of lithium mining projects”. These included five brine type lithium blocks of CAMYEN in the Catamarca province of Argentina and were identified by the KABIL team.

The Lithium Rush

Argentina, along with two other Latin American nations – Chile and Bolivia – form the world’s ‘lithium triangle’.

Chile and Argentina account for 30 – 35 per cent of the world’s supplies.

Chile which has 11 per cent of the world’s lithium reserves supplies 26 per cent of the requirements; while Argentina with nearly one-fifth of the global resources supplies 6 per cent-odd. The latter has two active lithium mines and 14 more projects underway.

Lithium, also called as white gold is an alkaline mineral is a critical requirement towards modern-day energy storage solutions. It finds usage in sectors like electric vehicles (EV), lithium-ion batteries, mobile phones, among others. It is the corner-stone towards India’s transition to green energy and reduction in the country’s carbon footprints.

India’s Lithium Find

Right now, all of India’s lithium requirements are met through imports, mostly China; and the bill is said to run as high as 24,000 crore.

India recently put up for auction two of its own lithium blocks, one in J&K and the other in Chattisgarh; and exploration is being carried out for more blocks across states like Rajasthan, Karnataka, among others. So far, the inferred lithium reserves in J&K is 5.9 million tonnes while in Chattisgarh, exploration is yet to be carried out.

Lithium salts can be found in underground brine deposits, mineral ores, clays, seawater, and geothermal well brines or water.