India will pump in about ₹200 crore to explore and develop five lithium mines in Argentina, the government said on January 15.
Lithium is the single most important critical mineral for the energy transition; a fundamental component of lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles and battery energy storage systems.
An agreement was signed between Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL), state-owned joint venture formed to scout for minerals overseas, and Catamarca Minera Y EnergÃtica Sociedad Del Estado (CAMYEN), a government-owned mining and energy corporation in the Catamarca province of Argentina to this effect.
KABIL is also preparing to set up a branch office at Catamarca, Argentina.
The project cost is about ₹200 crore.
"KABIL will start exploration and development of 5 lithium brine blocks viz 1. Cortadera-I, 2. Cortadera-VII, 3. Cortadera-VIII, 4. Cateo-2022- 01810132 and 5. Cortadera-VI covering an area of about 15,703 Hectare, located in the Catamarca province of Argentina," the Mines Ministry said in a statement.
"With this agreement, KABIL has received exploration and exclusivity rights for five blocks to evaluate, prospect and explore and subsequent to existence, discovery of lithium mineral, exploitation right for commercial production," the Ministry said.
Argentina is the part of the 'lithium triangle' along with Chile and Bolivia with more than half of the world's total lithium resources and having the distinction of having second largest lithium resources, third largest lithium reserves and fourth largest production in the world.
"This is a historic day for both India and Argentina as we are scripting a new chapter in bilateral ties with the Agreement signing between KABIL and CAMYEN', a step which will not only play a crucial role in driving the energy transition for sustainable future, but also ensure a resilient and diversified supply chain for critical and strategic minerals essential for various industries in India," coal and mines minister Pralhad Joshi said.
India in February last year found its first lithium deposits in Jammu and Kashmir with estimated reserves of 5.9 million tonnes. In July, 2023 India tweaked its mining rules by allowing the entry of private miners to search for the materials.
The government had earlier said KABIL has evinced interest to collaborate with Argentina-based CAMYEN for prospecting two areas for the extraction of lithium in the South American country.
KABIL, a joint venture company between NALCO, HCL and MECL, was formed in 2019 for sourcing strategic minerals like lithium and cobalt from overseas locations.
The JV expressed interest to partner with CAMYEN, Argentina, recently for prospecting two areas identified with the objective of establishing projects for extraction of lithium in due course of time, the Mines Ministry had said.