According to academics, the continuous shift to low-carbon economies, the quick development of artificial intelligence (AI), and the rollout of 5G networks will significantly alter regional and global geopolitics.
The histories of Chile and Bolivia, the two South American nations with the biggest known lithium reserves, are particularly instructive.
A significant portion of India’s mineral wealth is extracted from areas that have extremely high rates of poverty, environmental damage, and low governance. If India’s development of rare minerals is to achieve its many objectives, effective and attentive sector management should be of the utmost importance.
Occurrence: Although it is extremely uncommon, lithium can be found in trace levels in the Earth’s crust. Numerous minerals, including spodumene, petalite, and lepidolite, contain it. Brine deposits that contain lithium are also present in some areas.
Lithium has low melting and boiling points and is very reactive with both air and water. It has a low density and is soft enough to cut with a knife. A good conductor of heat and electricity is lithium.
Applications: Lithium is used in a variety of significant industries, most notably the battery industry. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which are frequently found in electronic gadgets like smartphones, laptops, and electric cars, make substantial use of it. Other uses for lithium include the manufacture of ceramics, glass, lubricants, and pharmaceuticals.
Health and Medicine: Bipolar illness is one mental health disease for which lithium has been utilised as a medicine. It serves as a mood stabiliser and can aid those with bipolar illness in lessening the frequency and intensity of manic episodes.
Energy Storage: Because of their high energy density and lengthy cycle life, lithium-ion batteries are frequently employed for energy storage. They have transformed portable electronics and are rapidly being employed in grid-level storage, electric vehicle batteries, and renewable energy storage systems.
Environmental Impact: Concerns about the effects of lithium mining on the environment have been sparked by the rising demand for lithium-ion batteries. Lithium mining and processing may have a negative impact on the environment, causing habitat destruction and water contamination. To make lithium production and recycling procedures more sustainable, however, work is being done in this area.
Points to Ponder:
Lithium industry in India:
Interest in India’s domestic lithium production has soared following the discovery of sizable lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir.
The market for electric vehicles (EVs) in India is expanding quickly, and lithium battery demand is rising.
The Indian EV market was estimated at $383.5 million in 2021, and by 2030, it is anticipated to grow to $152.21 billion.
India now imports a lot of its lithium batteries, so building up indigenous stocks is essential for ensuring energy security and minimising reliance on foreign sources.
Ownership Of Lithium in India :
India’s Supreme Court has declared that the land’s owner has rights to everything that is beneath it, including the minerals.
However, other places, such woods, hills, mountains, and revenue wastelands, are owned by the government.
If it is thought necessary, the government has the power to forbid private parties from mining important minerals.
To ensure ethical mineral extraction, it’s critical to find a balance between private ownership and public regulation.
Management of lithium reserves in different nations:
Chile: Chile has recognised lithium as a strategic resource and given two businesses, SQM and Albemarle, the sole right to produce lithium.
The “National Lithium Strategy” that Chile’s president unveiled in 2023 emphasises public-private partnerships to control environmental damage, share profits fairly, and advance indigenous research in lithium-based products.
Bolivia: Under the previous president Evo Morales, Bolivia first nationalised its lithium business but encountered difficulties in attaining commercial-scale production.
Luis Arce, the president at the moment, wants to work with other Latin American nations to create a regional lithium strategy that is advantageous to their economies.
Mexico:Lithium was recently declared a national resource in Mexico by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who views it as a resource that belongs to the country and its people.
Considerations and a multi-pronged strategy:
Countries in Latin America and South America are managing their lithium reserves in various ways, with differing levels of private sector involvement.
The mobilisation of indigenous communities seeking responsibility from both companies and governments has an impact on the conduct of these governments.
To maintain social well-being, environmental safety, and national energy security, India must place a priority on competent management, cautious regulation, and responsible development.
Responsible practises and sustainable development are crucial, especially in light of the difficulties posed by mining in places with high levels of poverty and loose regulations.