The country's first lithium reserve, found in Jammu and Kashmir, is of the best quality, a senior government official said here on Saturday, as upbeat villagers expressed hope the discovery will bring them a bright future.
The 5.9 million tonne reserve of lithium, a crucial mineral for the manufacturing of electric vehicles and solar panels, had been discovered in Reasi district by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).
"Lithium falls in the critical resource category which was not earlier available in India and we were dependent for its 100 percent import. The G3 (advanced) study of the GSI shows the presence of best quality lithium in abundant quantity in the foothills of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine at Salal village (Reasi)," J-K Mining Amit Secretary Sharma told PTI.
He said against the normal grade of 220 parts per million (PPM), the lithium found in J&K is of 500 ppm-plus grading, and with a stockpile of 5.9 million tons, India will surpass China in its availability.
"India joined a select group of countries at the global level after this finding and it will fulfil the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India)," he said.
Mr Sharma said lithium has widespread usage and its discovery at a time of India's G20 presidency provides an opportunity for J-K to showcase its rich reserves.
Asked about the possible timeline for its extraction to start, he said every project takes its own time. "We had G3 level study and it will now be followed by G2 and G1 study before the final extraction of the metal."
"Everything will be done at the earliest and we will collaborate with the GSI and extend our full support in this historical feat," he said.
The officer assured the people that the reserve will be a game-changer for them as the local youths are given preference in any project as per the government's industrial policy.
"The local youth, whether skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled, will be part of this project. People who will be affected by this project will be adequately compensated and rehabilitated under rules," he said.
People living in the villages around the site are excited at the discovery.
"It is a very happy moment for all of us and we are feeling proud. After the railway projects and Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, which are major source of employment for the locals, this project is going to be a game-changer for us," Salal Deputy Sarpanch Rajinder Singh said.
Salal is home to the Salal Hydroelectric Power Station, a run-of-the-river hydropower project on Chenab river. Salal is located on way to under-construction paradigmatic Chenab railway bridge with a height of 359 meters, 30 meters higher than the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Jaspal Singh, another villager who claimed to have worked as a labourer with the GSI survey team, said they surveyed the hills for the last two years and returned about three months back.
"We are feeling lucky to be part of this project which will generate ample employment opportunities for the locals. We salute the hard work of the survey team especially given the challenging situation during the outbreak of Corona pandemic," he said, adding "one of the team members died during the survey".
Senior Democratic Azad Party leader (DAP) and former minister Jugal Kishore Sharma congratulated the people for the finding of the lithium reserve and urged the government to ensure that the local youth be given employment in the project.
"The industry for excavation of the metal should be set up in Reasi and the local people should be engaged," the former member of legislative assembly from Reasi said.
He said there is also a need for fully exploring the lower Himalayas across Jammu and Kashmir.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)