India seeks Lithium from South American nations to meet Solar Energy and Electric Vehicles Target

As India moves closer to implementing policies for achieving its massive targets for electric vehicles and solar energy having a sustainable supply of Lithium-ion is more important than ever. In this report we explain the steps being taken by India to localise Lithium-ion cell/ battery production in order to support future growth.

By: | Updated: April 1, 2019 5:43 PM

With big plans to converting all its vehicles to an electric platform by 2030, India is reaching out to the `Lithium Triangle’ in South America- Argentina, Bolivia and Chile seeking the rare metal Lithium to realise its goal. Lithium is needed making batteries not only for the vehicles but is also required for laptops, and mobile phones. There have been hectic diplomatic engagements with inward and outgoing visits to these countries. The common thread has been India seeking to either have joint ventures, acquisition and exploration of Lithium mines in these countries.

Last week, in the first-ever high-level visit by any Indian leader to Bolivia, President Ram Nath Kovind and his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales had wide-ranging talks on strengthening relations in various sectors including space exploration, mining, mining, information technology, pharmaceutical and traditional medicines.

This was also the first time ever that President Evo Morales personally signed the Framework agreement establishing the commitment of Bolivia joining the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

Diplomatic sources confirmed to Financial Express Online that, “President Morales has never inked an agreement with any other leader of any country before. The fact that he personally inked the agreement is indicative of the importance of Indian President Kovind’s visit to Bolivia.”

The International Solar Alliance (ISA), is an initiative by India and France, whose major aim is to fight climate change and global warming. In his bilateral discussions, Kovind offered cutting edge technologies that could help Bolivia in developing Lithium products. According to Morales the South American country Bolivia presently has confirmed investment of $4.5 billion for industrialising lithium.

Reports have indicated that companies from China and Germany have committed investments in the Lithium processing projects: Chinese company Xinjiang TBEA Group has decided to invest $2.3 billion and the state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos has a joint venture with and Germany's ACI Systems in Uyuni for extraction of Lithium and has promised an investment of $900 million.

According to the joint statement issued at the end of Kovind’s visit to Bolivia, the two countries have agreed to not only have a joint venture for setting up Lithium Battery/Cell production in India but also to have a beneficial partnership to facilitate Bolivian supplies of lithium Carbonate to India.

Financial Express Online was the first to report that state-owned (KABIL) consortium of three PSU companies including: National Aluminum Company (NALCO), Hindustan Copper (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd., (MECL) and Bolivian state-owned Yacimientos del Litio Bolivianos (Bolivian Lithium Deposits) (YLB) Corporation will have a joint venture of setting up a Lithium Battery plant in India.

The country holds more than 40% of known reserves of Lithium, most of it in Salar de Uyuni. Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat rich in Lithium -- a large ground covered with salt and minerals. During the visit, it was also announced that a delegation from National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage of India will be undertaking a follow-up visit to Bolivia later this year seeking battery storage solutions.

Argentina has the largest lithium resources in the world, due to the high exploration activity that has been explored in recent years. Bolivia is still not considered part of the lithium reserve, but has only the resource and Chile has 48% of the total lithium reserves in the world, located mainly in the Salar de Atacama.

Discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Argentinean President Mauricio Macri earlier this year focussed on Lithium mining. Soon there will be a huge demand for solar panels which use Lithium-ION based batteries to meet India’s target of 100 GW of solar power generation by 2022 too.

Figure shows the World’s Lithium update reserves and resources.

Where is Lithium in Chile? An interactive Map of Chile Shows the SALAR’s in Chile from where the lithium minerals come. Salar de Atacama and Salar de Maricunga are the major projects and Lots of Companies are active in this Salars like SQM, SCM, Rockwood, SLM, Mineria Li, Cominor, Corfo, Codelco, Simbalik, Albemarle, and others, there are other Salars in Chile where the presence of Lithium mineral is found and exploration of Lithium is still going on.

The production of Lithium in Chile in 2011 was 12900 Metric Tons, 2012 was 13200 Metric tons, till 2015 production fell down which was recorded 10500 Metric Tons and then started increasing after 2015. It has been estimated that some 16.0 thousand metric tons of Lithium were produced in Chile in 2018.

During talks between President Kovind and his Chilean counterpart President Sebastián Piñera, among other issues, mining and exploration of Lithium is the focus.

According to a Survey Report on Lithium Market in Chile, posted on the Indian Embassy's website in Santiago, Chile -- a Chennai Based company Munoth Industries Limited (MIL) promoter of Munoth Group is setting-up India’s first Lithium Batteries cell for Mobile phone. Automobile sector Maruti Suzuki's parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) has tied up with Toshiba and Denso to set up the country's first lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Gujarat and Mahindra & Mahindra has firmed up plans to set up an R&D centre and a new battery manufacturing unit in Chakan, Maharashtra. Mahindra has forged an alliance with South Korea’s LG Chem to make lithium-ion batteries in India.

 

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