What is lithium? How is it processed? Are there impacts on water? Can it be processed sustainably? Lithium extraction and processing to support electric vehicles is a very new industry in the U.S. and questions abound, questions that deserve answers. We have attempted to answer many of the most common ones related to our project, and the industry in general, in a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions. As a company we believe in transparency and hope you will find this FAQ helpful. We also invite you to submit any questions you may have directly to us. We welcome the conversation.
Carolina Lithium Project Frequently Asked Questions
Piedmont Lithium is an American company publicly listed on Nasdaq (Nasdaq:PLL) with a secondary listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX:PLL). Founded in 2016, we are focused on establishing an integrated lithium business that will convert lithium resources found in the region into lithium hydroxide, a critical component for electric vehicle manufacturing in the United States.
Lithium is an essential part of lithium-ion batteries that are used in electric vehicles (EVs). The global demand for EVs has risen rapidly over the past few years and is projected to reach more than 30% of annual vehicle sales by 2030. Lithium plays a critical role in much of what we do in our daily lives. In addition to EVs, lithium is an essential part of the technology that powers mobile phones, computers, power tools and battery storage of energy generated from wind and solar power. Also, lithium is used in medical treatment for bipolar disorder and is being considered for treating dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Most of the world’s lithium comes from lithium containing mineral deposits in Australia or from underground salt brines in South America. Most Australian lithium spodumene concentrate is shipped to China to make lithium chemicals, and China currently manufactures approximately 83% of the world’s lithium hydroxide volume today. As the EV supply chain takes shape, it is important that America develop its own lithium resources to reduce our dependence on foreign sources and create a domestic supply chain for the new economy.
Spodumene (pronounced ‘spod-you-mean’) is a mineral that contains lithium. Spodumene has one of the highest lithium contents of all known minerals and is a proven source material for battery production. Spodumene mineral from the Carolina Lithium Project will be used to make spodumene concentrate that will then be converted into lithium hydroxide.
North Carolina is home to the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt (TSB). The TSB is the only lithium mineral deposit of its kind in the United States, and one of the most important lithium deposits in the world. The spodumene found in Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland Counties has been an important source of lithium in the past and the region was the world’s largest lithium producer from the 1950s to the 1980s.
There are several other lithium projects under development in the United States today, but ours is the only one based on spodumene, as the TSB is the only spodumene belt in the United States. Most of the other U.S. projects will be using raw materials or processes that have not been proven at commercial scale, so there may be technical risk associated with them that Piedmont does not have. We believe that our process will be one of the safest, most cost-efficient operations in the world.
We intend to use modern mining, environmental, water and air mitigation techniques that are better and safer than traditional methods. Mine regulations and operations have changed significantly since the original development in the area in the 1940s. Piedmont Lithium is committed to utilizing modern environmentally sound techniques for its mining operations, including in-pit ore crushing and covered conveying systems to reduce noise and dust generation. Our operations will follow requirements set out in our federal, state, and local permits. Piedmont Lithium will implement progressive land reclamation techniques that will ensure we have no abandoned areas on our sites, and we will be developing native plant habitats that will thrive after quarrying operations have ceased.
We believe the Carolina Lithium Project will be a significant boon to economic activity in the region. Gaston County will have a great opportunity to attract new and important high-technology businesses as the electric vehicle industry expands. Our operation will rely on the support of many small businesses in our area including maintenance contractors, delivery drivers, catering, machine shops, fabricators, uniform services, and many more. Our business will enable and enrich the base of skilled manufacturing jobs in Gaston County as well as the need to expand training programs for these workers. Our operations will employ approximately 500 locally skilled workers with an average of $90,000 per year in salary and benefits. Our employees will work in a safe, modern, state-of-the-art quarry and specialty chemicals facility. These factors should positively impact real estate values and economic activity in the immediate area and broader region. We believe our project and the associated new businesses will generate jobs, tax benefits, and general business growth in the County, and will generate demand for additional housing development, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and more.
The U.S. is among the world’s strictest regulators of quarrying and industrial activity, and we will comply fully with local, state, and federal regulations to ensure the water quality meets the strictest standards. We will have continuous water monitoring programs and controls implemented according to our permit requirements including our 404 Permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, our 401 Water Quality Certificate issued by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, and requirements that will in our permits that we will require in the future including our State Mining Permit issued by the Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources as well as our Conditional District rezoning. Our test work shows that our operations will not release dangerous contaminants into surface or groundwater resources. We have completed numerous tests on our ore, overburden, excess rock, concentrator tails, and hydroxide manufacturing residue. We will submit all of these test results to the State of North Carolina as part of our mine permit application. We are confident that we can build a safe, modern, integrated operation.
Noise from our operation will be greatly reduced from a typical quarry operation due to our use of state-of-the-art techniques that will include in-pit crushing and conveying, an enclosed conveyor system, rail instead of truck hauling, and indoor processing and operations. There will be land buffers and protective berms to shield our operations from public roads, schools, homes, and businesses.
Building electric conveyors throughout our project area will have the biggest positive impact in reducing traffic, dust, and noise from our operations. By creating a single integrated site for our quarry, concentrator, and lithium hydroxide manufacturing, we’ve significantly reduced the need for trucks to move material. We plan to utilize environmentally safe dust control technology and pave roads throughout our site operations. We will maximize delivery of materials by rail through a connection to CSX in Cherryville, N.C.
Piedmont will implement progressive reclamation throughout our site. What does that mean? It means that we will use excess rock to backfill quarries as much as can be practically achieved. Progressive reclamation means that we will not leave an exposed excess rock pile; instead, we will cover and plant the slopes of our excess rock pile as we build it. Progressive reclamation means that when we have finished operating in an area, we will remove all our permanent equipment such as conveyors, replace topsoil and reseed, and make our site ready for post-operational use. Buildings that are no longer in use will be taken down, their foundations covered, and the area replanted. Piedmont Lithium is responsible for all these activities, and we will pay for it. In the future, our Carolina Lithium property could be used for future manufacturing development, parks, trails, greenways, recreation areas, commercial development, solar development, or it could be a combination of any of these.