Piedmont Lithium introduced Thursday that it plans to construct a brand new lithium refining plant in Tennessee, because the U.S. rushes to develop home provide chains for uncooked supplies vital to the power transition.
Thursday’s announcement follows the biggest local weather funding bundle in U.S. historical past, which President Joe Biden signed into legislation in August. The bundle consists of incentives to jump-start home provide chains for electrical automobile batteries, though Piedmont stated plans for the plant have been in growth previous to the Inflation Discount Act.
Now that the corporate has chosen the positioning in McMinn County, it’s going to start the method of securing the mandatory permits, which will be prolonged. Nonetheless, the corporate is concentrating on building starting in 2023, with manufacturing beginning in 2025.
When absolutely operational, the plant will produce 30,000 metric tons of lithium per yr, making it the biggest lithium refining facility within the U.S, in keeping with the corporate. Piedmont stated it’s going to churn out sufficient materials to produce roughly 500,000 electrical autos yearly.
Piedmont presently has no lively mines within the U.S., 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.
Ultimately, the corporate hopes to make use of lithium that is mined domestically. The corporate has plans for a mine in addition to one other plant in North Carolina, though CEO Keith Phillips stated it is difficult from a allowing perspective, since each the mine and the plant are on the identical website.
Albemarle runs the one significant lithium mine within the U.S., which is in Silver Peak, Nevada. Moreover, solely 2.1% of lithium is refined within the U.S., in keeping with knowledge from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. China dominates the trade, refining greater than half of worldwide lithium provide.
Ought to Piedmont’s North Carolina mine and plant safe the required permits, nevertheless, the corporate forecasts its lithium output doubling, with the corporate supplying 1 million electrical autos per yr.
Piedmont Lithium’s announcement additionally comes as automakers are speeding towards huge electrical automobile fleets. By some forecasts, there merely will not be sufficient lithium to fulfill demand within the foreseeable future. The Worldwide Vitality Company estimates that so as to meet the targets set forth within the Paris Settlement, lithium demand will develop by over 40 occasions by 2040.
Constructing new mines takes years. They’re capital intensive and might face allowing challenges. There are additionally these against new mines, who argue that the world ought to as an alternative give attention to present manufacturing.
Piedmont’s Phillips famous that in simply the final yr $33 billion has been introduced for electrical automobile battery manufacturing vegetation within the U.S., which might require 500,000 metric tons of lithium yearly.
“That’s greater than all of the lithium hydroxide produced on the earth presently, so clearly the trade is dealing with a vital useful resource scarcity,” he instructed CNBC. “Anybody who can produce materials to produce this market — particularly domestically in the USA — can be in a well-liked place.”
Piedmont plans to speculate round $600 million creating the Tennessee facility.