Critical minerals: From mining to market for battery production in India


India’s LIB (Lithium-Ion Battery) cell manufacturing industry is poised for substantial growth, with projections indicating the need for significant quantities of key materials to meet the demand for batteries by 2030. The industry is expected to require approximately 193 thousand tons/annum of cathode active material, 98 thousand tons/annum of anode active material, 91 thousand tons/annum of aluminum, 41 thousand tons of copper, and 8 thousand tons/annum of LiPF6 electrolyte material to produce around 100 GWh/annum of batteries.

Cathode Chemistry and Demand

The demand for chemical precursors, such as lithium (Li), nickel (Ni), and cobalt (Co), is intricately linked to cathode chemistry requirements for various applications. LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) emerges as a dominant cathode chemistry, constituting approximately 60% of the demand for active cathode material. It finds applications in electric bus deployment, stationary grid storage, and behind-the-meter storage.

NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt) is another prominent cathode chemistry, representing about 25% of the demand. It caters to passenger EVs (Electric Vehicles), commercial EVs, consumer electronics and the two-wheeler EV market. LCO (Lithium Cobalt Oxide) is a cathode chemistry primarily used in consumer electronics, contributing around 15% to the overall demand for active cathode material.

Nickel Extraction Technology

Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) is at the forefront of advanced technology adoption for extracting nickel, copper, and sulfuric acid from the spent electrolyte of the ICC (Indian Copper Complex) refinery in Ghatsila, Jharkhand. HCL utilizes innovative EMEW (Electro-Extraction of Metals from Waste) technology from Canada to recover LME (London Metal Exchange) Nickel grade cathode from lower copper concentrations in spent electrolyte, a feat not achievable through conventional means.

Nickel Resources in India

India possesses significant nickel resources estimated at 189 million tons, primarily found as oxides, sulfides, and silicates. The State of Odisha holds the majority, with 175 million tons, concentrated in districts such as Jajpur, Mayurbhanj, and Keonjhar. HCL’s Ghatsila Copper Smelter in Jharkhand contributes to nickel sulfate production as a by-product, showcasing India’s capabilities in nickel recovery.

Cobalt Scenario in India

India, currently reliant on imports for cobalt, explores avenues for domestic production. The reserves/resources of cobalt in ore form are estimated at 44.91 million tons, with Odisha holding a substantial 69% share. Cobalt refining capacity in India is approximately 2,060 tons per year, with Nicomet Industries Ltd. and Rubamin Ltd. being major producers of cobalt cathodes and compounds.


India’s First Nickel Production Facility

HCL has recently launched India’s first nickel production facility at the ICC in Ghatsila, Jharkhand, representing a significant step toward reducing dependence on imported nickel. The “Nickel, Copper, and Acid Recovery Plant” at ICC produces LME-grade nickel metal from primary resources, contributing to India’s strategic resource independence.

Exploring Lithium Sourcing

An Indian delegation, led by Dr. V.K. Saraswat, explored lithium sourcing during visits to Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. The objective is to form strategic collaborations for sourcing raw materials, including lithium, cobalt, and nickel, crucial for battery manufacturing.

Cobalt Demand and Applications

The global demand for cobalt is anticipated to surge, driven by applications in cemented carbides, catalysts, superalloys, rechargeable batteries, and various industries. India’s rising trend in cobalt consumption necessitates exploration of lab-scale processes, such as recovering cobalt from purification cake, to meet growing demand.

Growth Prospects and Challenges

India’s cobalt industry, while small, shows steady growth, especially in sectors like aerospace. The total consumption of cobalt content in India is expected to range from 70 to 80 tons minimum, up to 100 tons maximum per month. The chemical and battery manufacturing sectors offer substantial potential, making the development of new technologies and product upgrades plausible.

In such a scenario, where India’s LIB cell manufacturing industry is strategically positioning itself to meet the growing demand for batteries, it is critical to ensure a continuous supply of all essentials minerals. Recycling used Li-ion cells to extract valuable minerals is a great way to ensure preservation of natural sources as well as proper disposal of used batteries. We arr Mini Mines is making waves with our innovative Hybrid Hydrometallurgy process. Recycling presently supplies only 5%-6% of demand, signalling significant potential for increased recycling rates. Over the next decade, the demand for lithium-ion batteries is projected to surge by 500% and Mini Mines can help you. We also have investment opportunities for those interested in the clean energy industry.

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