Time to bring lithium production back to the U.S.

Piedmont Lithium Limited intends to launch an open-pit lithium mine in North Carolina, which would be the only one of its type in the U.S.

According to media reports, the region west of Charlotte was once a mother lode of lithium and mining of the lightest metal could come back after years of import from other continents. The obvious reason behind the interest in domestic lithium lies in higher demand (especially since SK Innovation will build a lithium-ion cell factory in Georgia) and higher prices.

"Piedmont plans to extract lithium from mineral deposits in Gaston County, 25 miles west of Charlotte, in what geologists call the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt. Mines in the belt supplied most of the world’s lithium from the 1950s through the 1980s, before producers turned to cheaper deposits in South America and Australia. Two global companies still process lithium in the area."

The plan includes a mine, processing plant (to separate and concentrate the lithium) and a future chemical plant (to turn lithium into lithium hydroxide required for cathode materials).

Breaking ground on mine and processing plant is expected by the end of 2019, while full production should be reached in early 2021. Investment in the ore processing plant will be around $130 million, while the chemical plant at a later stage would cost $340 million.

The number of jobs is expected to increase from more than 50 initially to more than 300 when the future chemical plant goes online.

Source: seattletimes.com