Reacting to media reports that say the lithium reserves found in the Jammu region will be auctioned soon, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has accused the BJP of benefiting “crony capitalists” by exploiting the natural resources of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mehbooba Mufti wrote on ‘X’ on Tuesday, “After taking over J&K’s water resources and minerals, GoI has set its eyes on Jammu’s lithium reserves. While the electricity generated by the state is supplied to others (even for free), we ourselves suffer in darkness. Now these lithium reserves will be exploited and gifted to BJP’s crony capitalists. We must seek accountability on the share J&K will receive.”
Later in the day, by issuing a statement, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said that after the government of India effected the takeover of the water resources and minerals of the northern Indian state, the focus has now shifted towards the massive lithium reserves that lie beneath the region’s surface.
Mehbooba Mufti said, “Lithium, a critical component in modern batteries, holds immense global significance in the transition towards cleaner and sustainable energy solutions. As the world increasingly embraces electric vehicles, renewable energy storage and portable electronic devices, the demand for lithium has soared. Jammu and Kashmir is home to substantial lithium deposits that are pivotal in meeting this growing global demand.”
The former state chief minister reiterated that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have often found themselves in darkness due to insufficient power supply. This, when the electricity generated by the state has historically been supplied to other regions, sometimes, shockingly, even free of cost.
“Now, with the exploitation of these lithium reserves on the horizon, there are concerns that the benefits may not adequately reach the local population,” Mufti said.
She also expressed apprehension over the possibility of the lithium reserves in Jammu being exploited and offered to the “crony capitalists” associated with the ruling dispensation, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. This would potentially deprive the people of Jammu and Kashmir of their rightful share in the wealth generated through these resources.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the exploitation of these resources benefits the people of Jammu and Kashmir and not just a select few. Lithium is a globally coveted resource, and Jammu and Kashmir’s reserves are of great importance not just for our region but for the entire nation,” Mufti said.
Mufti insisted that the Centre must ensure an equitable distribution of the wealth generated from Jammu and Kashmir’s lithium reserves. She gave the examples of countries and states with the highest lithium reserves, such as China, Chile and Australia, which have set precedents of responsible resource management and transparent allocation of benefits to their citizens. She also stressed on the necessity of fair compensation, transparency and active involvement of local stakeholders in the decision-making process.
In February, India discovered its initial lithium deposits in Jammu Kashmir, estimating the reserves to be approximately 5.9 million tonnes, the news agency Reuters reported.
In July, the central Government passed a bill to allow the private sector to mine six atomic minerals, including lithium, and deep-seated minerals like gold and silver; it was approved by the Lok Sabha. The Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023 was passed by the Lok Sabha through a voice vote.
The bill seeks to allow the private sector to mine six out of 12 atomic minerals. Under the existing act, all 12 atomic minerals are reserved for mining and exploration by state-owned entities. The atomic minerals opened for private sector exploration were lithium (used in the manufacture of batteries in electric vehicles, and other energy storage devices), beryllium, niobium, titanium, tantalum, and zirconium.