Lithium discovery may turn India into an all-rounder for lithium batteries supply chain
Kanani stated that his company has been using lithium for over three decades, but this is the first time they have had a glimpse of hope that it could be acquired from India itself.
Neogen Chemicals (Neogen), a bromine and lithium-based specialty chemicals manufacturer believes that with the recent lithium discovery in Jammu and Kashmir, India will be able to develop the entire battery cell ecosystem indigenously, from sourcing to converting it into complex salts for the manufacture of electrolytes.
What distinguishes it is that the soft silvery metal, which can be found mostly in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and South America, has a supply, but the processing industry to turn it into a final product is underdeveloped.
Dr. Harin Kanani, Joint Managing Director of Neogen, said, "India will have both."
In February of this year, India announced the discovery of 5.9 million tons of inferred lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir, the first in the country. Weeks later, in an RTI response to Autocar Professional, the Geological Survey of India (GSI), which is mandated with creating and updating mineral resource assessments, revealed that it is conducting the exploration of lithium and related materials in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Ladakh, and Gujarat, in addition to Jammu and Kashmir, in the field season 2022–23.
The new exploratory move to scout for lithium reserves assumes importance given that the country's electric vehicle (EV) sector is still totally dependent on imports, particularly from China, for its lithium requirements. If these discoveries prove successful, India may be able to substantially reduce its reliance on costly imports and could even become an exporter in the long-term.
Kanani stated that his company has been using lithium for over three decades, but this is the first time they have had a glimpse of hope that it could be acquired from India itself. He said that once India starts mining lithium, the only thing which his company now imports could be found in India. "This will help the entire value chain of getting lithium out of mines, converting it into final products, and then turning it into electrolytes will be done in India," Kanani continues, adding that it may take some time before it will fructify.
On Monday, Neogen said it had signed a deal with MU Iconic Solutions Corporation (MUIS), a part of Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, to get a license for making electrolytes in India. As per the management, this advancement is likely to boost the company's competitive position in the EV industry and minimise product approval times. The commercial production of electrolytes will commence around FY25.
As per the deal, Neogen would have the permanent right to make up to 30,000 metric tons of electrolytes per year in India. This would be done in stages to keep up with growing demand. It will pay MUIS a one-time license fee to have access to this proprietary technology and will not be required to pay any royalty payments for the manufacture and sale of electrolytes, the company informed investors. The business specifics of the transaction, however, have not been disclosed.
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