Bengaluru: Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) for Exploration and Research, a constituency unit of the Department of Atomic Energy and Geological Survey of India, has clarified that AMD is the sole exploration agency which is exploring the area for spodumene and niobium-tantalum minerals from pegmatite gravels in Allapatna-Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna taluk, Mandya district since 1979.
It has been reported in a section of media that 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. However, the AMD would like to clarify that exploration efforts have so far established 1,600 tonnes lithium in inferred category (low level of confidence) in Allapatna-Marlagalla sector.
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 lithium 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 exploration cannot actual economic benefits at this stage.
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 existence 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 converter 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 increasing demand of lithium ion batteries, the requirement of lithium has increased over the last few years. Keeping the national interest in mind, AMD has intensified exploration for lithium in various geological domains of the country. Meanwhile, AMD is carrying out exploration to augment lithium resources in other geological domains of the country. Further work in this direction is in progress.