India is looking at increasing lithium exploration in Jammu & Kashmir and also conducting exploration for sapphire

The Union Government is looking to complete the auction of lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir within the ongoing calendar year. Vivek Bharadwaj, secretary for the ministry of mines, has said the government has recommended a transaction advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir government for the auction of lithium.

In February, the Geological Survey of India said that it had discovered 5.9 million tonne of lithium resources in the Salal Haimana area of Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir. Bharadwaj said the government would continue lithium exploration in J&K and was also looking at exploring sapphire in the region.

According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), rare earth elements as well as battery minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite form the core for new age energy minerals. The demand for these minerals is going to witness a rising trend as India moves towards 2047. Lithium, is a critical mineral used in electric vehicle batteries.

FICCI has recommended that the government must increase exploration of new age minerals from the current levels of less than 10 percent. The report added that India must promote R&D in processing of rare earth minerals, similar to China and the US. "India could look at collaborations through its diplomatic associations for joint exploration activities, technological advancement. Multipronged approach is needed to support all parts of value chain — invite investments from international firms with core competency in exploration, processing, battery manufacturing and recycling," the report stated.

FICCI President Subrakant Panda said India should leverage its strategic relationships to access and extract these resources. "We must work on development of integrated mining and supply chains to achieve the vision of a self-reliant India, or Atmanirbhar Bharat and have a long term strategy to reduce import dependency," Panda said.

On Offshore Mining

At present, 47 percent of the world's lithium is produced in Australia, 30 percent in Chile and 15 percent in China. However, China processes 58 percent of the world's lithium, Chile 29 percent and Argentina 10 percent.

The mines secretary said, that shortage of semiconductor chips around the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and after was a lesson for India. Wars and geopolitical tensions could potentially cut off supply of critical minerals, he said, adding that the government was bringing government labs and the private sector together to improve India's processing capabilities. "We will soon bring an amendment to the Offshore Areas Act to increase offshore mining in the country", he said.