On the 9th of February 2023, the Geological Survey of India released a sensational report that could be a game changer for India. As it turns out we have discovered 5.9 million tons of White gold in Jammu and Kashmir. Now, this is not literal gold but just like oil is referred to as the Black Gold of 20th-century lithium is known as the white gold of the 21st century, because just like oil become the bloodline of the 20th-century lithium is said to be the new energy REserve that will determine the super economy of the 21st century and most news channel only told us about the White gold discovery very few of them actually the critical business and geopolitical insights behind this discovery. So in this article let’s try to understand what is so special about Lithium that it is being called the White Gold of the 21st century. How would this new reserve discovery benefit India in the next 30 years?
The first thing you need to understand is why White gold is so important? and why it is called the white gold of the 21st century. We all know that Ev and renewable energy are the future but the single most important factor for this transition to EVs and Renewable is none other than the evolution of batteries and this is due to obvious reasons. One is the fact that unlike petrol which can be filled within a minute electric vehicles have a long charging duration that could range between 30 minutes to 5 hours. so refueling is an extremely inefficient way to go ahead. So the way ahead is not to have many charging stations but you have batteries that can last for 400 to 500 km such that they need to be charged only once a day. This is a reason why more than energy transfer energy storage will play a critical role in defining the electric superpowers of the world and the key to this energy to this energy storage in the EV industry is none other than Lithium-ion batteries.
What is so special about Lithium?
Well, the first reason lies in the capacity of Lithium metal to store the battery and the range. Lithium-ion as you keep on increasing the storage the range also increases rapidly and this range saturation just began at 350 miles ao if an EV can achieve a range of 400 miles and 640 kilometers that can easily suffice the automobile industry, This is the first reason why Lithium is very very important which is the perfect balance of range and Saturation.
The second reasons for Lithium value lie in the periodic table, Now if you remember after hydrogen and helium the Lightest metal we have is Lithium so obviously it is very very light for storage on top of that it has an energy efficiency of over 99 % which means 99% of the energy stored in lithium-ion batteries is converted into utilizable output and only one percent is wasted whereas if you the closest alternative of Lithium-ion you will see that Lead acid batteries have an efficiency of 70 % Lithium-ion batteries have an efficiency of 90 and Nickle cadmium batteries have an efficiency of only 85 %.
Thirdly White gold has the highest energy density meaning it can store the highest amount of energy per kg for example the energy density of a typical lead acid battery is around 30 to 50 watts per kilogram Nickle acridinium ranges between 45 to 80 watts per kg nickel metal hydro it ranges between 60 to 120 watt per kg whereas Lithium ion ranges between 50 to 260 watt-hour per kg. This means that Lithium-ion batteries can store 3 to 8 times more energy than lead acid batteries of the same weight. Hence lithium takes all three boxes which are range energy efficiency and energy density. and White gold is so so superior in the market right now that scientists believe there is no alternative to this battery system for the next 10 to 15 years. So in short the country that has lithium will command a very very strong hold over both geopolitics and the economics of world trade for the next two decades.
Geopolitics Of Lithium
The way the lithium industry developed looks very similar to the beginning of the oil boom Lithium is shaping geo politics just like oil. Now it is estimated that there are 80 million tons of White gold resources in the world with 80 percent of the known White gold deposited just in four countries which are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Australia this region at the intersection of Argentina Bolivia and Chili contains the largest known lithium in the world because of which this region is now known as the south American Lithium triangle but you know what the most surprising fact of all is that the market of lithium supply is not dominated by any of the four countries and the actual leader of this market comes out to be China. And India so much dependent on China for White gold batteries that’s 70 percent of our supply chain comes from China.
If such a valuable resource is present in such large quantity and that too in those countries that are not so economically strong what does it indicate? It indicates that either they could be powerful cartels and become super-rich countries like Southe and UAE or it indicates that the big daddies of geopolitics will use these countries as puppets to win the global trade war. China already has very very tight control over these Lithium mines. To tell you about these China Tianaki Lithium is the second largest shareholder in sqm which is a very established Chilean mining company. China’s gang fang White gold company control 51 % of the Argentian Lithium lithium projects that have been developed by Lithium American corporation on top of that Chinese company has also invested in the Bolivian Lithium reserve and China also holds a 51 % stake in the world’s biggest hard rock lithium mines at Green Bushes in Western Australia.
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