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Miner Piedmont unveils plans for brand new lithium refining plant in push for home EV provide chains

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Piedmont Lithium introduced on Thursday that it plans to construct a brand new lithium refining plant in Tennessee, because the US rushes to develop a home provide chain for the uncooked materials vital to the power transition.

Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels of the biggest local weather funding package deal in US historical past, which President Joe Biden signed into regulation in August. The package deal consists of incentives to jumpstart the home provide chain for electrical car batteries, though Piedmont stated plans for the plant have been in improvement earlier than the Inflation Discount Act.

Now that the corporate has chosen a web site in McMinn County, it’s going to start the method of securing the required permits, which might be prolonged. Nonetheless, the corporate is concentrating on building beginning in 2023, with manufacturing beginning in 2025.

Based on the corporate, when absolutely operational, the plant will produce 30,000 metric tons of lithium per yr, making it the biggest lithium refining facility within the US. Piedmont stated it will produce sufficient materials to provide about 500,000 electrical autos yearly.

Piedmont at the moment has no lively mines within the US, so as soon as the ability is up and operating it’s going to course of spodumene focus from Piedmont’s worldwide operations in Quebec and Ghana.

Finally, the corporate hopes to make use of lithium that’s mined domestically. The corporate has plans for a mine in addition to one other plant in North Carolina, although CEO Keith Phillips stated that is difficult from a allowing perspective, because the mine and plant are each on the identical web site.

Albemarle Operates the one significant lithium mine within the US, which is in Silver Peak, Nevada. Moreover, solely 2.1% of lithium is refined within the US, based on information from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. China dominates the trade, refining greater than half of the worldwide lithium provide.

Ought to Piedmont’s North Carolina mine and plant safe the required permits, nevertheless, the corporate predicts its lithium output will double, together with supplying a million electrical autos per yr.

Piedmont Lithium’s announcement additionally comes as automakers are racing towards bigger electrical car fleets. By some forecasts, there will not be sufficient lithium to satisfy demand within the foreseeable future. The Worldwide Vitality Company estimates that lithium demand will improve 40-fold by 2040, with a view to meet the targets set within the Paris Settlement.

It takes years to construct new mines. They’re capital intensive and will face allowing challenges. There are additionally these against new mines, who argue that the world ought to deal with present manufacturing.

Piedmont’s Phillips famous that final yr alone $33 billion was introduced within the U.S. for electrical car battery crops, which might require 500,000 metric tons of lithium yearly.

“That is greater than all of the lithium hydroxide at the moment produced on this planet, so clearly the trade is going through a severe useful resource scarcity,” he informed CNBC. “Anybody who can produce supplies to provide this market — particularly domestically in america — shall be in an advantageous place.”

Piedmont plans to speculate about $600 million to develop the Tennessee facility.

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