The plan reflects Albemarle’s emerging strategy to lead America’s lithium renaissance, from mining development to processing to manufacturing the types of metal used to make high-end EV batteries.
Eric Norris, head of Albemarle’s lithium division, said the company had seen a major shift in the US over the past nine months with an “unprecedented” number of EV factories announced, heralding a sharp increase the number of EV factories according to the company. .fuel demand for lithium.
As a result, the company plans to build a processing plant with an annual capacity of 100,000 tons in the southeastern United States, somewhere within rail reach of a major port, Norris said.
“There is not enough (lithium) supply yet to meet US ambitions,” Norris said at the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials conference in Phoenix, Arizona. “This (processing plant) will be critical to our success going forward.”
Albemarle is in active talks with automakers about buying stock in the plant, Norris said. Albemarle already supplies Tesla Inc, as well as several other major automakers.
While Albemarle has spoken vaguely about building a processing plant in the United States in the past, he used Monday’s conference call to announce the specific plan and said he will play a key role as the he company aims to increase its total lithium production capacity fivefold to 500,000 tons per year. by 2030.
The US plant would be similar in design to a processing plant that Albemarle recently opened in Kemerton, Western Australia, although it is expected to cost less than Kemerton, whose costs have exceeded its original target of 1 .2 billion, Norris said.
Albemarle plans to finance the facility itself, although the US Department of Energy may apply for loans, he said.
The plant would be powered by lithium mined 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 would likely compete with a planned lithium mine and processing complex in a neighboring county of Piedmont Lithium Inc, North Carolina, which faces opposition from regulatory and local authorities.
Unlike the Piedmont mine, Kings Mountain would be a reopening of a plant that closed in the 1980s, a distinction Norris said he expects to work in Albemarle’s favor.
“This is an existing mine in a very mining-focused town,” Norris said. “We are very present in the community.”
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