A high-level delegation from Niti Ayog led by Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. recently concluded a visit to "Lithium Triangle'' countries-Chile and Bolivia to review the agreements related to Lithium mining earlier this year.
The high-level delegation visited these countries to get a better understanding of the availability of the Lithium, possibilities of joint ventures as well as the incentives offered by the governments of these countries.
As has been reported earlier President Ram Nath Kovind had visited Chile and Bolivia and met with their leaders and during the bilateral talks, Lithium was one of the most critical issues discussed.
During the meeting between President Kovind and President Sebastián Piñera of Chile, it was agreed that more needs to be done in acquiring Lithium from the South American country.
India has only very recently started exploring the possibilities in the "Lithium Triangle'' countries in an effort to meet its own target of Electric Vehicles on the roads by 2030. And it was for this purpose that the government has set up a `KABIL' consortium of three state-owned companies: National Aluminum Company (NALCO), Hindustan Copper (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd., (MECL). The most important task for this consortium is to help in facilitating the process of acquiring strategic minerals globally and to help in developing and processing them.
According to top diplomatic sources the Indian delegation's visit to Chile is not only limited to Lithium but also to explore opportunities for copper and gold as well as Molybdenum ores.
In Bolivia, the delegation led by Saraswat met with the Vice Minister of Foreign Trade and Integration, Benjamin Blanco and reviewed the MoU signed earlier this year about developing joint manufacturing and facilitating the process of acquiring Lithium Carbonate from Bolivia for making batteries that could be used in Electric Vehicles.
So far Bolivia has exported nearly $0.561 million value of Lithium Carbonate to the world in 2018 as compared to $0.491 million in 2017 and $0.161 million in 2016. The Info-graph shows that Lithium carbonate exported from Bolivia to China is $0.35 million, the US $0.22 million in 2018 and Russia also imported $0.220 Million in 2017. So far, there are no exports of Lithium Carbonate to India.
World's biggest Lithium reservoir Chile has exported nearly $ 948.35 million value of Lithium Carbonate to the world in 2018 as compared to $ 694.31 million in 2017 and $ 499.06 million in 2016. The Info-graph shows the top three importers of Chilean Lithium Carbonate, The Republic of Korea – $340.00 million, Japan – $908.14 million and China – $128.76 Million in 2018. So far, Chilean Lithium Carbonate export to India has been recorded at $ 2.46 million in2018.
India has expressed its interest in a project for setting up a manufacturing base for Lithium batteries and to participate in the exploration of the rare earth mineral.
Both countries during the visit last week have decided to set up a working group which will focus on the timelines of the project as well as within the framework of the agreement concentrate on value addition in the exploration as well as participating in making batteries and cells and other related products.
Presently, almost 100% Li-On batteries and cells are imported as there is a huge demand for these as they have a high energy density. These have a long life and are in demand for not only cars but medical devices, space sector, solar panels, and hi-tech military platforms.
India is working towards cutting down its dependence on importing these and has plans to set up R&D and Technology Development Facilities with the focus of manufacturing these batteries and cells locally.