Albemarle plans to set up a major lithium processing plant in the United States

FILE PHOTO: A sign at the approach road leads to Albemarle

The plan reflects Albemarle’s emerging strategy to lead the lithium renaissance in the United States, from developing mining to processing to manufacturing the types of metals used to make high-end EV batteries.

Eric Norris, head of lithium at Albemarle, said the company has seen a major transformation in the United States in the past nine months with the announcement of an “unprecedented” number of electric vehicle plants, threatening a sharp increase in the number of electric vehicle plants the company believes are in demand. lithium fuel.

As a result, Norris said, the company plans to build a processing plant with an annual capacity of 100,000 tons in the southeastern United States, somewhere near a major port.

“There is not yet enough lithium supply to meet US ambitions,” Norris said at the Fast Markets Conference on Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials in Phoenix, Arizona. “This[processing plant]will be vital to our future success.”

Norris said Albemarle is in active discussions with automakers about buying stock from the facility. Albemarle already supplies Tesla Inc, as well as many other major automakers.

While Albemarle has spoken vaguely about building a US processing plant in the past, it used Monday’s conference to announce the specific plan and said it will play a key role as the company aims to increase its total lithium production capacity fivefold to 500,000 tons per year. by 2030.

Norris said the US plant will be of a similar design to the recently opened Albemarle processing plant in Kemerton, Western Australia, although it will presumably cost less than the Kemerton plant, whose costs have exceeded its initial target of $1.2 billion.

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He said Albemarle plans to fund the facility itself, although the US Department of Energy may apply for loans.

The plant will be powered by lithium extracted from the company’s Kings Mountain mine in North Carolina, which is currently out of service but could reopen as early as 2027.

The Kings Mountain plant is likely to compete with a planned lithium mine and processing in North Carolina County near Piedmont Lithium Inc., which is facing opposition from regulatory and local authorities.

Unlike the Piedmont mine, Kings Mountain would be a re-opening of a plant that closed in the 1980s, a distinction Norris said he expected to work for Albemarle.

“This is a mine that is in a city that is very focused on mining,” Norris said. “We are very present in the community.”

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