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Nalco to make lithium ion cells after tech transfer deal with Isro

Jayajit Dash/Bhubaneswar 17 Apr 19 | 05:49 PM

On a diversification spree, National Aluminium Company (Nalco) has decided to launch a new stream of business- setting up a production line for lithium ion cells.

Nalco's chairman & managing director T K Chand said, “The production facility will be set up in Odisha. Nalco is opening a separate vertical for lithium ion cell production. The location and capex (capital expenditure) for the project will be decided in due course."

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Nalco has signed a pact with Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) for transfer of lithium ion technology. Isro's satellites and launch vehicle applications are powered by lithium ion batteries owing to their high energy density, reliability and long life cycle. Nalco's foray into the lithium ion cell production business could temper imports by India. Presently, the country is one of the largest importers of lithium ion batteries- the imports in 2017 were valued at $150 million. The Government of India in a bid to spur local manufacturing, has doubled the basic import duty on lithium ion cells. 

Raw material for Nalco's envisaged lithium ion cell plant will be sourced from Bolivia. Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL), a joint venture where Nalco owns equity alongside Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL) and Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL), has started scouting for some lithium resources in Bolivia for a possible acquisition. KABIL, the JV entity is being incorporated. Nalco would have 34 per cent stake in the JV while the other two partners will own 33 per cent equity apiece. Aside from Bolivia, the team from KABIL toured Argentina, Peru and Chile in its hunt for strategic mineral assets. 

On September 19 last year, the three central public sector undertakings entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the objective of making the country self-reliant in the areas of 12 strategic minerals that are either not available in the country or not available in optimum quantity.

The MoU was signed by T K Chand, chairman cum managing director (CMD) of Nalco, Santosh Sharma, CMD at HCL and Gopal Dhawan, CMD of MECL.

The JV is tasked with identifying, exploring, acquiring, developing and processing the strategic minerals overseas for commercial use and for supplying to India to meet the domestic requirements due to its non-availability in the country and giving a boost to Make in India drive of the Government of India. The identified strategic minerals include tin, tungsten, titanium, gallium, lithium, tantalum, cobalt, niobium, selenium and indium. The objective is to make the country self-sufficient in such minerals.

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