Who is Piedmont Lithium?
We are a global lithium business headquartered in Gaston County, North Carolina. We’re working to become a leading producer of lithium products in North America and one of the most sustainable producers of lithium hydroxide in the world.
How many projects do you have?
Currently, we have four projects in our global portfolio that are strategically assembled to help supply lithium resources to the North American market. We are planning to produce a combined total of 60,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide annually through our planned Tennessee Lithium conversion facility and Carolina Lithium projects. The 60,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium we plan to produce should supply approximately 1.2 million electric vehicles per year¹, and should greatly add to the current annual U.S. production capacity of approximately 17,000 metric tons.
Our jointly owned North American Lithium project in Quebec began commercial production in March 2023 and commercial shipments of spodumene concentrate in August 2023. We also are advancing plans for the mining of lithium resources at the Ewoyaa Lithium Project in Ghana. Our strategy is to help supply Tennessee Lithium production with raw materials sourced from Ghana and Quebec via offtake agreements. Lithium hydroxide production at Carolina Lithium is expected to be supplied from minerals mined within the project site.
¹ Based on 50 KWh per vehicle as forecasted by Rho Motion
Why is made-in-America lithium hydroxide important?
We believe the domestic production of lithium hydroxide is vitally important to U.S. energy security and the growing effort to build robust, American-made supply chains for electric vehicles (EV) and battery manufacturers.
The demand for lithium is soaring, largely because of the growing demand for EVs. Every EV requires a battery, and every battery needs lithium. Lithium equips batteries with a long lifespan, a high-power capacity, and a unique ability to charge quickly – all while requiring less maintenance than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.
However, not enough lithium hydroxide – or battery-grade lithium – is produced in the U.S. or globally to power the electrification of transportation. Currently, China produces approximately 80% of the world’s supply of lithium hydroxide, while the U.S. produces just 17,000 metric tons per year.
What is spodumene?
Spodumene ore – or lithium ore – is what we plan to excavate on the Carolina Lithium site to extract the spodumene mineral and turn into a lithium salt that goes into batteries. Spodumene has one of the highest lithium contents of all known minerals and is historically proven as a feed source for battery materials. The lithium ore also contains other minerals such as quartz, feldspar, and mica, which will be separated from the spodumene and sold as by-products to other industries.
How is spodumene converted to lithium hydroxide?
Producing lithium hydroxide from spodumene happens in three steps. First, spodumene ore is extracted from the ground via a mining operation. Afterwards, the ore is crushed and spodumene concentrate is filtered out. This sand-like material is then processed into lithium hydroxide, a non-hazardous, non-flammable, salt-like substance.
We are developing Carolina Lithium to be a fully integrated project, with all three steps happening on a single project site. We also are designing our lithium hydroxide conversion facility to use an innovative process for producing battery–grade lithium. Rather than relying on acid-roasting to convert spodumene concentrate to lithium hydroxide, we plan to primarily use pressure and steam for a safer, more efficient process that eliminates chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, that would normally be used during production.
Is lithium hydroxide a fire or explosive risk?
No. The lithium hydroxide we plan to produce is not flammable or explosive. Although there are other forms of lithium, such as lithium metal, that can be highly reactive, lithium hydroxide does not fall into that category and can be treated just like any other non-hazardous, non-explosive material. We are not producing the lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally have had instances of fire events.
Will you use or release arsenic into the local groundwater?
No. Carolina Lithium will not utilize, create, or release arsenic into the groundwater. Arsenic is not used in the production of lithium hydroxide. However, arsenic is naturally occurring in the rocks, soil, and groundwater in Gaston County and throughout the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, this region has the greatest number of groundwater wells in the state with detectable and elevated levels of arsenic because of the presence of underlying volcanic rock.
We are designing the project to manage and control water on the site in all aspects, including any engagement with naturally occurring arsenic. We do not expect to materially change the composition of the groundwater. In fact, in cases in which we treat elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the groundwater before discharging it, we will return the water in better condition than we found it.
Will Carolina Lithium cause my well to dry up?
We are committed to the diligent protection of local water resources and have conducted modeling studies to understand the potential impact of the mining operation on local well water availability. Based upon the results of modeling studies, we believe the project will not cause widespread drying up of wells. These modeling studies were conducted as part of our state mining permit process and reviewed by Gaston County’s hydrogeologist to understand the potential impact.
There are a range of variables that will specifically determine how the mining may impact individual wells, such as well depth and location, placement of the pump, and condition of the well. However, the study indicates that just 10 parcels beyond the project boundary (not owned by Piedmont) were likely to experience a drawdown of more than 12 inches. Results showed that other wells could experience an impact between 1 and 12 inches, but whether that drawdown would be noticeable or detrimental to the property owner would depend upon the specific conditions of the well. We will have monitoring wells around our property boundaries to allow us to monitor water levels and alert us to potential impacts before they reach wells beyond our boundary.
What happens if Carolina Lithium impacts my well?
If the project affects the availability of water in a nearby well, we would work with that neighbor to help ensure their short-term and long-term access to water. As part of our state mining permit process, we have already developed proactive mitigation plans to address any impacted wells. These plans include: 1) drilling a new or improved well or 2) providing access to municipal water supplies. Piedmont also would make a payment to the impacted homeowner, which could be used to offset the cost of municipal water.
We plan to provide short-term water supplies until a longer-term solution is in place. At the very outset, we would supply bottled water and, if needed, arrange for a water tanker that could fill an onsite tank or connect directly to a well water line.
Piedmont is already working with the County to complete design engineering for the potential waterline extension. We also have agreed to fund both the design engineering and construction of the waterline extension. As Piedmont will be a large municipal water customer ourselves, this water line extension would need to be in place prior to the beginning of project operations and would provide a foundational water line around our project property with stubs that would facilitate the connection to neighbors.
Our state mining permit is expected to dictate the protocols for how and when to respond to facilitate a timely remediation of an impacted well. Further, we plan to work with the County to develop a program to support this remediation, including pre-arranging for contractors that would be readily available for both municipal water connections and well remediation services.
How will Carolina Lithium protect streams and local waterways?
Responsible water management is a key part of our plans to develop Carolina Lithium as one of the world’s most sustainable projects of its kind. Like other industrial and manufacturing operations, our use and processing of water is regulated, and we intend to fully comply with our permits and be environmentally responsible in our operations.
Any groundwater that goes into the mine pit area will then be pumped into a sedimentation pond. After resting, we will test the water to understand if there are any constituents above allowable limits, and then it will be treated, if necessary. Prior to the release of this groundwater back into the local waterways, we must ensure we meet permit requirements that will be established by the State. A portion of the water will be recycled for use in our concentrator plant and for dust suppression.
None of the process water from our facilities will be discharged into the rivers or streams. The water we plan to use in the concentrator and hydroxide manufacturing facilities will be treated onsite and then sent to Two Rivers’ wastewater treatment facility for further treatment.
How will stormwater on the site be managed?
Sedimentation basins are being designed throughout the site to capture stormwater, providing time to allow water to be settled as it is tested and treated (as necessary) before being discharged. These basins will be monitored and subject to permit requirements.
How often will you blast at Carolina Lithium?
We plan to blast once or twice per day on average, as needed and depending upon scheduling requirements.
We will communicate with nearby residents about blasting activities. We plan to share a regular blasting schedule on our website, a recorded message, emails, and signs onsite.
In compliance with Gaston County’s mining ordinance, blasting will not be conducted until one hour after sunrise or within one hour of sunset. Likewise, to mitigate disruption to neighboring homeowners, we will not blast on Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day.
What type of explosives do you plan to use at Carolina Lithium?
Very little “explosive” will be used. Modern blasting is very different from the explosive blasting of the past that some local community members remember from former mining operations. In modern blasting, the primary agent is a liquified product, called an emulsion, that can be safely transported on the highway as an oxidizer, no different than mineral oil. The emulsion is activated only when loaded into the holes at the time of blasting. All blasting companies in this area utilize emulsion as their primary blasting agent, and it is safely utilized in a number of industries – from construction to quarrying and mining – on a daily basis in North Carolina and across the United States.
Will blasting cause damage to surrounding structures like homes, schools, and businesses?
Modern blasting is highly controlled, using electronic detonation to maximize the efficiency of each blast. Every blast is custom engineered based on unique variables, such as its location, geologic conditions, orientation to neighbors, and more to ensure safe, compliant operations that minimize disturbances for those nearby.
Our blasting will be conducted according to state mining regulations and federal recommendations. It will be designed for vibration levels within the limits of the “Z-Curve” established by the US Bureau of Mines (USBM). More than 40 years of data illustrate that staying within the USBM limits causes no damage to offsite structures. Blasts at Carolina Lithium are being planned to be well within these standards – with most expected to be lower than 50% of allowable levels.
We will collect data from each blast, assess our impact, and adjust plans to help ensure continued compliance and minimize disruptions to neighbors throughout the life of mining activities. We will be required under state regulations to record each blast using seismographs, and this data will be provided to the state upon request.
Will there be a lot of traffic and dust at Carolina Lithium?
We are designing our operation to limit traffic and dust for both our neighbors and the environment.
For example, we plan to invest millions of dollars in enclosed, electric-powered conveyor belts to connect our operations and reduce the need for trucks. Likewise, we expect to maximize delivery of materials by rail through a connection to CSX. We also plan to use environmentally safe dust control technology.
How much experience does Piedmont Lithium have in mining and mineral processing?
Our senior leadership team has nearly 200 years of experience in mineral exploration, mining, and mining construction and more than 65 years in the lithium industry. Our team also includes former employees of both FMC (now Livent Corporation) and Albemarle Corporation, who are specifically experienced in the hard rock production of lithium hydroxide. Our partners also are well versed in pressure leaching technology, with operational experience from Nevada Gold Mines at our engineering consulting firm, Primero, and a broad depth of knowledge in design development from our technology partner at Metso.
What will happen to the mine site when you are finished mining?
As part of our reclamation plans, which have been submitted to the state regulators, we intend to progressively reclaim each of the four pits – meaning we will reclaim them as we go. As mining in each of the first three pits is completed, we will fill them back in with the excess rock, and then cover with soil and plant grass and native vegetation. The fourth pit will be allowed to fill with water and will be owned and managed in perpetuity by Piedmont. The waste rock stockpile (excavated rock that has no commercial value) will also be covered in soil and planted with grass and native vegetation. Due to the topography of reclaimed mine pits, typical of quarrying and mining, these sites are usually repurposed for parks, trails, and recreation.
The mining operation within the project site is only about 25% of the 1548 acres – roughly 387 acres. Once mining is completed and that land is reclaimed, the concentrator facility where the ore is crushed will be removed and that land reclaimed as well. If the conversion facility on the western side of the project site is no longer needed and cannot be repurposed, it will likewise be removed and the site reclaimed. This land, including wooded buffers and so forth, could be repurposed or reclaimed for a wide variety of purposes, including residential development, among others.
Mine reclamation strategies have evolved dramatically in recent years, going far beyond simple restoration. Closed mines in North Carolina, across the United States, and around the world are being used for public parks, forests, and even farmlands.
What guarantee will the community have that you will reclaim the project site as intended?
Piedmont Lithium plans to manage this project sustainably and responsibly and according to the commitments we make to the state, Gaston County, and the community. This community is the home of our Carolina Lithium project and our corporate headquarters, and we plan to operate as a responsible corporate citizen for many years to come.
Further, in accordance with North Carolina mining permit requirements, we plan to post a surety bond as a financial assurance to the community that we won’t abruptly leave and that we will fulfill our reclamation obligations. The State of North Carolina determines bond amounts and will not release funds until we have proven that all reclamation requirements have been met. While the maximum amount the state can require for this bond is $1 million, we intend to provide a much higher bond amount as part of our Community Development Agreement with Gaston County. The details of this agreement will be determined in negotiation with the county.
Will Carolina Lithium operate 24/7?
Yes, like many manufacturing and quarrying operations, Carolina Lithium will operate 24 hours, seven days a week. However, certain activities will only take place during particular hours of the day. For example, no blasting will be conducted until one hour after sunrise or within one hour of sunset. Further, we will not blast on Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Preventative maintenance periods will also require multiple operations to shut down as needed.
What types of jobs will be offered at Carolina Lithium?
Our Carolina Lithium project is expected to employ approximately 200 people during the construction phase and 428 full-time employees to support project operations. These positions include:
- Equipment operators
- Plant manager
- Warehouse support
- Shipping and receiving
- Material handling
- Supply chain
- Human resources
- Grounds and buildings
- Quality control
Is there going to be any local training offered for any of these positions?
We are committed to hiring locally wherever possible and have partnered with Gaston College to build local training programs for mechanics, electricians, and control room operators. We are currently collaborating with the school’s Apprenticeship 321 program and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Plans are already underway to establish curricula with the goal of graduating participants before operations begin at Carolina Lithium.