India explores investment in Australian lithium processing facilities

Rishi Ranjan Kala | Updated on: Jul 04, 2022
 Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi

 Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi | Photo Credit: BYSPECIALARRANGEMENT

Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi visits lithium processing facility in Kwinana, Australia

India is exploring avenues for jointly investing in advanced processing facilities for Lithium, a key component in electric vehicles (EVs), in Australia, Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi said on Monday.

“Lithium hydroxide is a key component in EV batteries. During visit, discussed about exploring joint investment opportunities for utilising the available advanced lithium processing facilities in Australia and enhancing cooperation in the field of strategic minerals,” the minister tweeted.

Joshi, who is on a six-day official visit to Australia, visited the Tianqi Lithium processing facility in Kwinana accompanied by Australia’s Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Madeleine King. This processing facility is Australia’s first fully-automated lithium hydroxide processing plant.

India imported around 627 million units of lithium-ion batteries in FY19, while during FY20 and FY21, the in-bound shipments of lithium-ion batteries stood at 539 million units and 516 million units, respectively.

Domestic sources

The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), part of the Department Atomic Energy (DAE), is carrying out exploration for lithium in potential geological domains in Mandya and Yadgir districts of Karnataka. Preliminary surveys on surface and limited subsurface exploration by AMD have shown presence of lithium resources of 1,600 tonnes (inferred category) in Marlagalla area in Mandya district.

Besides, the Geological Survey of India (GSI), under the Mines Ministry, also takes up different stages of mineral exploration. During the Field Season Programme (FSP) 2016-17 to 2020-21, GSI carried out 14 projects on lithium and associated elements in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

During the current FSP 2021-22, GSI has taken up five projects on lithium and associated minerals in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan.

India’s quest for Lithium

India has been exploring to acquire mines of strategic minerals such as lithium and cobalt in producing countries like Australia, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. This is aimed at ensuring a committed supply of raw material especially for renewable energy (RE) and mobility.

To that effect, the Mines Ministry created a joint venture (JV) firm — KABIL — with National Aluminium Company (Nalco), Hindustan Copper (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corporation (MECL). The equity participation is 40:30:30, respectively. KABIL is mandated to identify and acquire overseas mineral assets of critical and strategic nature such as lithium and cobalt so as to ensure supply side assurance.

Based on a commissioned study and selection criteria, select source countries have been shortlisted for exploring possibilities of mineral asset acquisition abroad. So far, engagement of KABIL is under way with source countries like Australia, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile which are endowed with cited critical and strategic minerals, a government official said.

In 2020, KABIL signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with non-disclosure agreement with three state-owned Argentinian organisations in July, September and December for the purpose of information sharing regarding prospective mineral acreages.

Published on July 04, 2022
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