Centre forgot to tell the full story of lithium

Centre forgot to tell the full story of lithium
Centre forgot to tell the full story of lithium

Before Thursday’s announcement of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves, Indian geologists had spotted promising signs of lithium reserves in Jammu’s Reasi district over a quarter century ago.

According to a 1999 report prepared by GSI scientists K.K. Sharma and S.C. Uppal, the lithium prospects appear promising in the Reasi belt, with high lithium values “persistent throughout”.

Report titled “Final Report on Regional Geochemical Survey for Base Metals and Lithium in Salal Area… Field Sessions 1995-96 and 1996-97”, it also credited M.R. During 1992, Kalsotra, who was then director of mineral investigation operations, conducted trace studies and reported “high lithium values.”

The Union ministry of mines said Thursday that the GSI had “for the first time” established lithium inferred reserves of 5.9 million tonnes in Salal-Haimana.

Worldwide, lithium is widely used in batteries for electric vehicles, mobile phones, and computers.

According to scientists, India has one of the largest reserves of this strategic mineral with 5.9 million tonnes, assuming future studies confirm this.

Among the lithium reserves listed by the US Geological Survey, Bolivia has 21 million tonnes, followed by Argentina (17 million tonnes), Chile (9 million tonnes), the US (6.8 million tonnes), Australia (6.3 million tonnes) and China (4.5 million tonnes).

It was announced by the Press Information Bureau that lithium deposits had been inferred through field investigations since 2018-19, which had also revealed gold and other mineral deposits in 11 states. GSI scientists’ 1999 report was not mentioned by the ministry.

Scientists who asked not to be named said the 1999 report was the result of a geochemical mapping exercise to generate “baseline mineral data” on the Salal area.

According to the scientist, the new report submitted by the GSI would have referred to their 1999 contribution.

For the first time in the country, 5.9 million tonnes of inferred lithium resources have been discovered in the Reasi District of Jammu & Kashmir, according to Union coal and mines minister Pralhad Joshi.

The mines ministry secretary confirmed on Saturday that the “discovery had been made on the basis of the previous work by the GSI” which had “recommended further investigation”.

Sharma and Uppal analysed more than 200 samples in the Salal area and found lithium at some sites in average concentrations of 831 parts per million.

According to him, an area of 5sqkm was proposed with drilling of 1,200 metres and sampling during the field season 2020-22, based on previous work and recommendations.

In spite of the high lithium concentrations detected at the site, Pankaj Srivastava, a senior geologist at Jammu University, believes the study by Sharma and Uppal raises the question of why no detailed excavations have been conducted all these years.

“Only the GSI can explain it. The lithium enrichment was high. I don’t know why the study wasn’t extended after 1999,” he said.

The latest GSI report, however, must have given credit to earlier geologists’ “commendable” work, he said.

A senior GSI scientist declined to comment on the new inferred estimate. However, scientists familiar with the development said the estimate came from an early stage of exploration, when estimates of mineral abundance are subject to large error margins.

An inferred estimate comes from the G3 prospecting stage, which identifies potentially promising deposits for further exploration. The G2 phase will determine the deposit’s size, shape, and grade.