Lithium discovery important but mining hold risks

Source: The post is based on the article “Lithium discovery important but mining hold risks” published in Livemint on 25th February 2023

What is the News?

According to experts, discovery of lithium in Jammu and Kashmir is significant for India’s push towards electric vehicles but any environmental gains could be negated if it is not mined carefully.

Lithium discovery in Jammu and Kashmir:

The Geological Survey of India has identified a potential deposit of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium in Reasi district’s Salal-Haimana area in J&K.

The site is an “inferred resource” of the metal, which means it is at a preliminary exploration stage, the second of a four-step process.

Significance of this discovery:

The lithium reserves are significant, and can reduce India’s reliance on imports of lithium-ion cells, which are a key component for Electric Vehicles (EV) batteries and other clean energy technologies.

Risks involved in Lithium mining:

Lithium mining involves several risks.Approximately 2.2 million litres of water are needed to produce one tonne of lithium.Further, mining in the unstable Himalayan terrain is fraught with risks.

For instance, lithium mining in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia has led to concerns over soil degradation, water shortages and contamination, air pollution and biodiversity loss.

This is because the mining process is extremely water-intensive and also contaminates the landscape and the water supplies if not done in a sustainable method.

Moreover, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), about a fourth of the Earth’s known lithium deposits (88 million tonnes) would be economical to mine.

Applying this benchmark, India could probably economically extract 1.5 million tonnes of lithium from the 5.9 million tonnes discovered in preliminary studies.

Note: Economically here would mean that the resources and technology used to extract will give good return in terms of usage of the resource.

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