The announcement that a vast deposit of lithium ores has been found in Jammu’s Reasi district has set off possibly premature celebrations.


How is it significant?

  • Lithium is a rare-earth element critical to battery-storage technology and hence part of the value chain for electrical vehicles, and off-grid solar power and wind-turbine storage systems.
  • Most of the largest proven lithium reserves are in Bolivia and Chile, and China possesses the largest refining capacities.
  • If the estimates that the Reasi deposits of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium are close to being accurate, then India possesses the largest reserves after Bolivia. However, it may be too early to celebrate that India will be catapulted into playing a key role in global lithium-ion battery production.


Why is it a premature celebration?

  • The current estimate of reserves is based essentially on a 1999 survey by the Geological Survey of India, which indicates “inferred” reserves with a “low level of probability”.
  • Those reserves may take years of further assaying before moving into the “probable”, and then into the “proven” category.
  • The accurate estimates of proven quantity could eventually be significantly lower than the current inferred amount.
  • Further, it will still remain to be seen how easy it is to extract and refine lithium from the deposits in Reasi. That process could take a decade or more and require substantial investment.
  • India has previous mineral “finds” fizzling out. One example would be the 2005 announcement by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) that it had discovered $100 billion worth of natural gas in the offshore Krishna Godavari Basin. While that was hailed as a historic moment by the state government, the GSPC “find” has absorbed large investments over the next 17 years without achieving commercial production. Even other finds in the same offshore region proved to be much less than initially estimated.



  • If there is indeed lithium in large quantities, India will certainly be a major beneficiary. However, it would not only have to extract and refine lithium, but also set up a value chain for battery production.
  • This process of extraction, refining, and battery production will take a fair amount of investment and time.
  • It will also lead to a serious environmental impact on the region, as well as possibly requiring the shifting of local populations since the area is geologically “young” and seismically unstable.
  • Reasi is also close to the Line of Control, which means there could be geopolitical complications. The government will have to work out a comprehensive policy that takes all this into account once the reserves are proven.


Way forward

  • India has always been aware that it is lacking in lithium reserves and, hence, it has invested in researching alternative storage technologies involving sodium-ion batteries.
  • Sodium is far more abundantly available than lithium — it can be extracted from seawater, for instance.
  • Apart from research funded by commercial organisations such as Reliance Industries, there has been promising research into sodium-ion battery technologies in the laboratories of the IITs.
  • That research should continue and, if possible, it should be scaled up to be commercially available. The lithium discovery is certainly worth investigating but it will not hurt to have an alternative storage technology available.


SourceBusiness Standard


QUESTION – Experts have called the discovery of lithium reserves in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of premature celebration. Why? Explain in brief.