India is likely to start work on lithium exploration in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, apart from one more block in Jammu and Kashmir later this year.

A Mines Ministry official told businessline that exploration in the two hill States would be taken up by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in its field season - 2023-24. The two States have been listed as probable destinations where lithium can be traced “because of topographical and geological similarities to Jammu and Kashmir” region.

Lithium, an alkali metal, is one of the key components in rechargeable batteries used in mobiles, laptops, electric vehicles, and in medical devices like pace-makers. It is also used in energy storage solutions.

India currently imports all the major components that go into lithium-ion cell manufacturing.

The country’s largest and only lithium block discovery has been in the Salal Haimana area in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. The inferred resource is to the tune of 5.9 million tonnes, mostly in rock form, and plans for auction of the blocks are underway by the Union Territory. Some Korean and Japanese companies have also been making queries on the reserve, Mines Ministry officials in the know said.

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“For the field season 2023-24, the GSI is interested in taking up exploration and surveys in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. These are extension of the Himalayan region and bearing topographical similarities of the J&K’s Reasi district. Discussions are on. And details are being worked out,” a senior Ministry official said.

Exploration is also being carried out in the Panasa–Dugga–Baldhanum–Chakar–Sangarmarg region, also in the Reasi district of J&K.

India’s import bill

As per a reply in the Rajya Sabha, by the Union minister, the country’s lithium ion import bill (which covers electric accumulators, including separators) was ₹18,554.12 crore in the 10 months of FY23 (Apr–Jan), with nearly 76 per cent of these coming from China.

Also read: India likely to complete due diligence on lithium blocks in Argentina in two months

On the other hand, lithium imports (covering primary cells and batteries) stood at around ₹209 crore for the period under review — China and Hong Kong are the top two countries, at 30 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively.

In FY22, imports for lithium ion was ₹13,673.15 crore, while for lithium it was ₹165.08 crore.