Lithium reserves in India and the game-changing Australian lithium partnership

lithium reserves in India might not be the world’s largest. India is not playing any games when it comes to ensuring that it will be one of the frontrunners for lithium mining in the years to come. This comes after traces of lithium were recently reported in the country’s Karnataka Mandya. 

lithium reserves in India might not be the world’s largest. India is not playing any games when it comes to ensuring that it will be one of the frontrunners for lithium mining in the years to come. This comes after traces of lithium were recently reported in the country’s Karnataka Mandya. 

Although lithium reserves in India are minimal compared to some of the world’s largest lithium powerhouse producers, a few opportunities exist for India to profit from these traces and position itself as one of the latest lithium producers in the world. 

Four of the world’s biggest mining firms in lithium mining are the Albemarle, SQM, Tianqi, and FMC mines, which reportedly dominate 77% of the global lithium market. These mines are owned by the USA, Chile, Australia, and the USA. India wants a share of this market. China leads the pack as the world’s leader in the lithium-ion supplier list and supplies most of its domestic lithium supply. According to Bloomberg, the country also controls 80% of the world’s raw material refining capacity, 77% of the global lithium cell capacity, and 60% of the world’s total manufacturing component. 

Lithium reserves in India and battery imports

The Indian government heavily imports lithium batteries from countries with ample lithium reserves, such as Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and China. With almost all of the lithium batteries for electric vehicles in the nation currently being imported from China, India’s public and private sectors are making plans to cause a substantial reduction in lithium technologies imports. 

With the Electric Vehicle (EV) market steadily growing, it has been widely reported that India expects that in 2030, almost 75% of all two-wheelers and new cars in the country will be electric vehicles, with the larger share of these being lithium powered.  

India’s use of lithium batteries and lithium-ion technologies also presents the country with an opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint by over 30% from its 2005 levels by 2030. 

Furthermore, the Indian Central Electricity Authority projects that the country will require 27 GW of grid-scale energy storage systems. These will also require large amounts of lithium technologies. 

Australian Lithium
Australian Lithium

Lithium Mining: India partners with Australia

In its latest efforts to capture a share of the global lithium market, India’s Ministry of External Affairs recently announced that it would partake in a partnership worth an initial $6 million with Australia. 

“Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) to collaborate on lithium and cobalt projects in Austra,” reported India’s Ministry of External Affairs in a statement online.  

Under the agreement, the two countries will find the venture in a 50:50 ratio. The partnership sees them both having to perform due diligence on specific green and brownfield projects in Australia as part of their Memorandum of Agreement (MoU). 

In the agreement, which is referred to as the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), India expects to accelerate lithium production in the country, which will be a much-needed resource in the years to come as EVs become more prominent famous. 

Furthermore, lithium reserves in India will better be able to supply itself with the same lithium-powered technologies it relies on other countries to provide it with through imports. This will also show that a lower foreign exchange is spent on importing these lithium batteries. 

Subsequently, this will boost India’s local lithium markets and create jobs for locals in the lithium and cobalt energy sectors and all the other sectors in that value chain. 

The India-Australia CSP follows closely after India recently offered companies based in the country and abroad over $2.4 billion in incentives to build battery cells for electric vehicles.

The India-Australia CSP also allows for the inclusion of any other Indian state-run firm as an investment partner and other listed Latin American companies such as Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina to explore mines and minerals. 

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Noting the enormous potential for profit, a few companies in India’s private sector plan to take up the India-Australia CSP on this in various forms. For instance, leading global car manufacturers Suzuki Motor Corp and Toshiba Corp. have revealed plans to produce lithium-ion batteries using lithium reserves in India. 

Unsurprisingly, these companies, which specialise in car manufacturing, aren’t the only ones with their eyes on the India-Australia CSP, but some, unlike Suzuki, Toshiba, and Denso Corp, are yet to make a final decision on whether they will be taking a plunge. Among these is Hero Future Energies, which according to LithiumIonBattery.org, said that they are still waiting for more policies and incentives around the matter from the Indian government. 

With plans to set up a lithium-ion battery facility in India’s Gujarat district for increasing lithium reserves in India, the car manufacturer and its Japanese partners expect to own 50% of this production plant. Toshiba will hold a 40% stake in the plant as part of this same deal, while Denso Corp will own the remaining 10% stake. The partnership will also show that Indian car maker Maruti Suzuki will benefit from the local battery production. At the same time, the Suzuki mother company will reportedly export these battery packs to Suzuki. 

lithium reserves in India
India is seen as a late mover in attempts to enter the lithium value chain, coming at a time when EVs are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption. (Reuters/File)

Meanwhile, car manufacturers aren’t the only ones interested in lithium-ion batteries. Other sectors like the telecommunications industry and ATM banking networks also look at how a lithium-battery plant may benefit. In the case of the telecommunications industry, already the largest consumer of lithium-ion batteries is telecommunications towers, as providers use these because they last longer and have a lower effect on greenhouse gas emissions than lead-acid batteries. Similarly, the same is true for ATMs in the ATM and banking world, so using lithium-ion is a better alternative in the long run.

With the price of lithium-ion cells also decreasing as battery technologies improve, more industries may begin looking at lithium-ion cells and battery pack production as part of a lucrative deal they may benefit from. 

However, with China already leading the pack in supplying lithium-ion cells and batteries, perhaps it would be within India’s interests to look at producing metals that, like lithium-ion, have a reduced greenhouse gas effect but will also boom in demand the coming years. 

Examples of these include aluminium-based technologies, which India already has extensive reserves of, meaning it will be able to produce these at a significantly reduced cost while also allowing the country to export these to countries with limited resources. 

India should also look at the metals it is currently mining and those like aluminium. It would be an excellent position to become an early adopter and innovator. This is regarding the race to produce better, more sustainable, cheaper, and longer-lasting power solutions in vehicle manufacturing and general trade industries.

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