India’s Lithium Deal with Argentina

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • About Lithium
  • Applications of Lithium
  • Where is Lithium Found Naturally?
  • Future of Lithium Production
  • News Summary
  • Acquisitions in Argentina

Why in News?

  • India is on the brink of securing a significant deal for five lithium blocks in Argentina, with negotiations reportedly in the final stages.
  • This strategic move could be a game-changer in reducing India's reliance on China for critical minerals.

About Lithium

  • Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3. It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal.
  • Lithium is a special metal in many ways. It's light and soft — it can be cut with a kitchen knife and so low in density that it floats on water.

Applications of Lithium

  • The most important use of lithium is in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles (EVs).
    • Lithium is often dubbed as “white gold” for electric vehicles.
  • Lithium metal is made into alloys with aluminium and magnesium, improving their strength and making them lighter.
    • Aluminium-lithium alloys are used in aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.
  • Lithium has no known biological role. It is toxic, except in very small doses.

Where is Lithium Found Naturally?

  • Lithium makes up a mere 0.0007 per cent of the Earth's crust and it's only found locked up in minerals and salts.
  • With 9.3 million tonnes, Chile has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.
  • Chile is followed by Australia (6.2 million tonnes).
  • In 2023, the Geological Survey of India, found that 9 million tonnes have been found in Salal-Haimana area of Reasi district of J&K.
    • India now has the third largest resource of lithium globally, but it will take time to convert it to reserves.
  • India is followed by Argentina (2.7 million tonnes) and China (2 million tonnes).
  • Global lithium production surpassed 100,000 tonnes for the first time in 2021, quadrupling from 2010. Currently, Australia alone produces 52% of the world’s lithium.

Future of Lithium Production

  • As the world produces more batteries and EVs, the demand for lithium is projected to reach 1.5 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2025 and over 3 million tonnes by 2030.
  • Based on the above demand projections, production needs to triple by 2025 and increase nearly six-fold by 2030. 

News Summary

  • The Union Ministry of Mines, through the state-owned Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL), has entered into a draft exploration and development agreement with Argentinean miner CAMYEN.
  • This agreement is for possible acquisition and development of five-odd lithium blocks.
  • The company has also entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Chilean miner ENAMI for “possible exploration, extraction, processing and commercialisation” of the mineral.
  • It has also appointed consultancy major PwC for identification of investable projects in Australia.

Acquisitions in Argentina

  • India has over the last one year upped its search for critical mineral, especially lithium.
  • Lithium is a cornerstone in India’s switch to green energy thereby reducing its carbon footprints.
  • Argentina, with its enormous lithium deposits and low production costs, is ideally positioned to supply this demand.
  • As of September 2023, Argentina has two active lithium mines. There are 14 lithium projects under construction or in the advanced exploration stage in Argentina.
    • Argentina is expected to become one of the world’s leading lithium producers once these projects become operational.
  • The KABIL board had approved the ‘Draft Exploration and Development Agreement” earlier and a proposal for opening of Branch Office in Catamarca, Argentina was subsequently cleared by the Ministry.

Q1) What is the meaning of Asthenosphere?

The asthenosphere is an important layer, or zone, within the earth. Temperature increases with depth in the earth and eventually the rock material of the mantle becomes partially molten. This partially molten layer is called the asthenosphere. It is located below the Lithosphere.

Q2) What are transition metals?

Transition metals are one of the group of metals in the centre of the periodic table. Transition metals are heavy, they melt only at high temperatures, they form coloured compounds, they can combine with another element to form more than one compound, and they often act as a catalyst.

Source: India closing in on lithium-deal with Argentina, tapping Australia and Chile too | Financial Express