The Indian government has proclaimed that they have identified two lithium mines and one copper mine in Argentina and they are moving forward to acquiring it or taking long term lease. The government of India said that they had sent a team of geologists to Argentina to assess and find potential lithium deposits in the month of November 2022. They have been able to identify a possible source of lithium and copper deposits in the south American country.
A Very Significant Achievement:
Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (Kabil) will have ownership or leasing rights to the mines. A joint venture between the National Aluminium Company (Nalco), Hindustan Copper (HCL), and Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd. It was established in 2019 to ensure the market in India had access to strategic minerals.
Lithium Triangle in Latin America:
- Lithium reserves have been found in all the continents but Chile, Argentina and Bolivia together are referred to as the “Lithium Triangle”- holding underneath in its salt flats more than 75 percent of the world supply.
- The Lithium Triangle being a part of the dry landscape makes the extraction of lithium a complicated process, as the miners have to drill holes in the salt flats in order to pump mineral-rich brine to the surface.
- The mineral-rich brine is then made to evaporate for months resulting in the residue of manganese, borax and lithium salts.
- These salts are then filtered again and left to evaporate once more.
- It takes 12 to 18 months for the filtration process to complete and then the lithium carbonate can be extracted.
Argentina’s Economy And Lithium:
- In the ancestral land of Atacama’s lies the stockpiles of white gold (silvery-white alkali metal),i.e., Lithium metal is worth of billions of dollars.
- Since 2018, the economy of Argentina is in crisis. It was the time when it approached to IMF for a $ 57 billion loan. It has faced many economic challenges, including rapid depreciation of the currency, economic contraction and a high rate of inflation.
- Argentina has an excellent source of lithium and it has the potential to compensate for the macroeconomic instability of the country.
India’s stake involved in Argentina:
- KABIL has inked a pact with an Argentine firm to jointly look for the possibilities of finding lithium in a South American country.
- Khanij Bidesh India limited (KABIL), a joint venture was set up in 2019 by three state-owned companies, National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO), Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL) in equity participation of 40:30:30 respectively. Its mandate is to acquire strategic minerals assets like lithium and cobalt abroad. It is also exploring the other two countries of the lithium triangle, namely Bolivia and Chile.
- This can potentially decrease our dependency on China as the key source of both raw material and cells.
Lithium reserves in India:
- During 2021-22 Geological Survey of India (GSI) has carried out 7 projects on Lithium in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan. However, the resource of lithium has not yet been augmented by GSI.
- Researchers at the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD)for Exploration and Research, which is a constituent of Department Atomic Energy (DAE) has estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of land surveyed in Southern Karnataka’s Mandya district.