Tesla supplier Piedmont Lithium gains mining approval in North Carolina

Credit: Piedmont Lithium

Tesla supplier Piedmont Lithium has been granted approval to set up mining operations in North Carolina, though it still may face some barriers in developing a future operation.

After filing for the mining permit in August 2021, Piedmont has faced some local backlash and regulatory challenges for the site outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. However, according to a press release, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality on Monday approved Piedmont’s original permit, doing away with a massive obstacle in the company’s hopes to mine a lithium deposit in Gaston County.

The new approval is still conditional on the posting of a $1 million reclamation bond, and many in nearby areas have expressed concerns surrounding water, noise pollution, and additional environmental and community issues. North Carolina has never denied a mining permit application before.

The site is expected to include both a Lithium hydroxide conversion facility and a Spodumene concentrator, as can be seen in the company’s renderings below.

Lithium hydroxide conversion facility. Credit: Piedmont Lithium

Spodumene concentrator. Credit: Piedmont Lithium

The mine is expected to be 500 feet deep, and Piedmont still needs to be granted a local zoning variance, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion. Piedmont Lithium has also applied for loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, using a program that competitors such as ioneer and Lithium Americas have gained past funding from.

“We plan to develop Carolina Lithium as one of the lowest-cost, most sustainable lithium hydroxide operations in the world,” said Keith Phillips, Piedmont Lithium CEO. “The Project is expected to contribute billions of dollars of economic output and several hundred jobs to Gaston County and North Carolina’s growing electrification economy.”

If the project comes to fruition, the Carolina Lithium site would become one of the only lithium-producing sites in the U.S., as automakers eagerly look to bolster their raw mineral supply chain and reduce reliance on China and other countries.

Last year, Piedmont also inked a multi-year deal with Tesla for the supply of spodumene concentrate (SC6), which is another raw material used in the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The deal is expected to run through 2025, though it the parties can also extend the agreement by an additional three years.

Tesla has also been making progress on its own Lithium Refinery, which will eventually process raw lithium materials into battery-grade lithium for use in EVs.

Piedmont Lithium CEO says not enough lithium to meet U.S. demand by 2030 or 2035

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Tesla supplier Piedmont Lithium gains mining approval in North Carolina
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