: Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a constituent unit of Department of Atomic Energy and Geological Survey of India are two agencies which are involved in mineral exploration. AMD has the mandate of surveying, prospecting and development of resources of uranium, thorium, niobium, tantalum, lithium, beryllium and Rare Earth Elements (REE) as these minerals are required for supporting the Nuclear Power Programme of the country. Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication and aerospace industries. The well-known uses of lithium are in Lithium ion batteries, lubricating grease, high energy additive to rocket propellants, optical modulators for mobile phones and as convertor to tritium used as a raw material for thermonuclear reactions i.e. fusion. The thermonuclear application makes Lithium as “Prescribed substance” under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 which permits AMD for exploration of Lithium in various geological domains of the country. Due to the continuously increasing demand of Lithium ion batteries, the requirement of Lithium has increased over last few years. Keeping the national interest in mind, AMD has intensified exploration for lithium in various geological domains of the country.
Recently, news items on Lithium exploration and resource of Allapatna – Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna Taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka have been published in various media. In this regard, it is clarified that AMD is the sole exploration agency which is exploring the area for spodumene (Li-mineral where Li2O is ~ 8%) and niobium-tantalum (Nb2O5 and Ta2O5) minerals from pegmatite gravels since 1979 to 1998 (1st phase) and again since 2013 (2nd phase).
Likewise, news items on exploratory work by AMD to extract lithium from brine pools of Rajasthan and Gujarat and the mica belts of Odisha and Chhattisgarh have also been published, where exploration by AMD is in preliminary and reconnaissance stage.
Exploration is continuous process where data is dynamic and updated based on positive and negative results. Reports have been circulated in some media, wherein the estimates of lithium metal have been quoted to be as high as 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of surveyed area in Mandya district of Southern Karnataka. AMD would like to clarify that exploration efforts have so far established ~ 1600 tonnes lithium in inferred category (low level of confidence) in Allapatna – Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka. This is a preliminary estimate and requires further exploration efforts to convert the estimated resources to exploitable category with high degree of confidence level and explore the possibility of augmenting Li resources in the area. Further, unless a proper technology/method is available to profitably extract lithium from its ore, the real benefit of exploration may not be there. With the data presently available with AMD, the actual economic benefits of the exploration cannot be estimated at this stage.
Meanwhile, AMD is carrying out exploration to augment lithium resources in other potential geological domains of the country. Further work in this direction is in progress.