One-of-a-Kind Lithium Mine to Open in North Carolina
Mining company Piedmont Lithium Limited has applied for permits to carry out open-pit lithium mining operations in North Carolina. The company has said that once operational, the lithium mine will be the only one of its kind in the U.S. The mining operations will be carried out at a mineral deposit site in Gaston County, about 25 miles west of Charlotte.
Piedmont Lithium is an emerging lithium company focused on the development of its Piedmont Lithium Project in North Carolina, with the goal of becoming a strategic domestic supplier of lithium to the increasing electric vehicle and battery storage markets in the U.S.
In 2018, Piedmont signed a strategic land acquisition agreement with local land owners in the region to increase its lithium mineral rights by 188 acres.
Mines in this region were a major global supplier of lithium between the 1950s and 1980s, which is why geologists dubbed the region the "Carolina tin-Spodumene Belt." Alongside Piedmont, there are two other international companies extracting lithium in this region.
The increasing demand for lithium has invoked interest among companies to enter the lithium extraction industry. More than 50 percent of the lithium extracted last year across the globe was used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries. The rapid expansion of electric vehicles, along with exponential growth in the demand for electronic goods has increased the need for large volumes of lithium-ion batteries.
The area of the proposed lithium mine.
The U.S. government is also promoting the domestic production of lithium. In May 2018, lithium was listed as one of the 35 most critical minerals by the government, which plans on reducing its lithium imports by becoming more self-sustaining. A self-sufficient future is quite possible, considering the fact that the United States holds 11 percent of the world's lithium resources, but only utilizes a small portion of this pool.
Piedmont Lithium plans on setting up a processing plant that will concentrate and separate lithium extracted from the mine. The company will also set up a chemical plant to convert the concentrated lithium into lithium hydroxide, which is used to produce cathodes for EV batteries.
Once the permits are secured, the company plans to begin operations at the mine by the end of this year. The facility is expected to achieve its full production capacity by early 2021.
Piedmont disclosed that the ore processing plant would require an initial investment of $130 million. The chemical plant will be added at a later stage, raising the total investment to $340 million. The company also discussed job creation possibilities and expects the number of jobs to increase to over 300 from the current 50 once the chemical plant is fully operational.
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