Editorial January-2021 The future of Mobility Lithium is the new oil

Rajiv Parikh

16 May 2021

There’s been a 700% growth in the stock price of the revolutionary car technology and energy company Tesla and that too just in 2020. It was a long pending break for those who invested in the company with Elon Musk leading the team at Tesla. What is more fascinating being the way Tesla is redefining the rules of the game starting from Energy to Cars to Oil and all to an extent where Big Oil and the countries producing it is at a loss of words! It is also challenging the people who were not supporting Climate Change and now the company is at it forefront to support the initiative of Climate Change. 

Just last week, the Indian government announced its plan to be self-sufficient in the next big global element called Lithium and Cobalt which are used in the battery technology for moving cars. The most important element is available in South American countries which includes Argentina, Bolivia and Chile (ABCs of South America’s Lithium). These are the countries having the next big thing just like how Saudi Arabia dominated the oil market for so many years. The shift to renewable energy is happening at a record pace and Lithium is at the core of this change. Lithium involves complicated extraction. Lithium was discovered in 1817 by a Swedish chemist Johann Arfvedson. Lithium Oxide is used in special glasses; Lithium Stearate is used as a temperature lubricant. Lithium Hydride is used as a fuel and Lithium Chloride is used in drugs to treat depression. Over 50% of the world’s Lithium reserves are found in South America. 1/3rd of the reserves in this triangle are in Bolivia, close to 21 million tonnes. Argentina has the world's second-largest reserves at 17 million tonnes. Chile comes third with 9 million tonnes. Three other countries too have considerable amounts of Lithium. US has 6.8 million tonnes. Australia has 6.3 million tonnes. And China has 4.5 million tonnes. (based on inputs from WION). Lithium is the new oil. According to one research from Atomic Minerals Directorate, a unit of India’s Atomic Energy Commission have estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of land surveyed in the Southern Karnataka district. India plans to buy Lithium to ensure supplies that could potentially last decades and make India self-reliant. New Delhi has started a massive effort to make India a world leader in Lithium batteries. A new company has been formed called Khanij Bidesh India Limited. It was incorporated by three state-owned companies including NALCO, Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration Limited. Khanij Bidesh will acquire mineral assets like Lithium and Cobalt which are used in the batteries and have already signed a pact with a firm in Argentina. India will build its first Lithium refinery in Gujarat. The facility will process Lithium ore to produce battery grade lithium. According to a  report from WION, India and Australia are working together to get the market share from China as it has 73% in global batteries manufacturing. To top it all Lithium makes up only
0.002 percent of the earth’s crust. 

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