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Albemarle outlines lithium project plans for Kings Mountain, North Carolina

| By Mary Bailey

Albemarle Corp. (Charlotte, N.C.) has introduced its project plan for the Kings Mountain Mine in North Carolina, one of the few known hard-rock lithium deposits in the U.S. The plan includes the proposed site footprint, primary physical features and details of the mining processes. Pending permitting approval and a final investment decision, the mine is anticipated to produce approximately 420,000 tons of lithium-bearing spodumene concentrate yearly, providing a crucial building block for sustainable transportation and to support key defense applications.

“The Kings Mountain Mine is a world-class resource that can provide an essential element to power our future,” said Albemarle Energy Storage President Eric Norris. “We are pleased to share our plan with the community as we continue to seek their engagement to redevelop this rich, domestic resource in a safe and responsible manner.”

The proposed project plan, shared today at a community open house and available online, includes several environmentally and socially responsible mining features and practices:

  • Reduced land disturbance: The plan includes the use of the former Kings Mountain Mine to support mining operations and the use of a former mica mine for tailings storage—both designed to minimize the amount of land disturbance necessary.
  • Sustainable materials management: Non-ore-bearing material from mining operations is planned to be transferred to the adjacent Martin Marietta Kings Mountain Quarry for processing and sale as construction aggregate. The arrangement is intended to contribute to a more sustainable management of resources and a portion of the sales are planned to be used to support Kings Mountain and the surrounding communities. In addition, Albemarle is currently testing secondary markets for processed ore tailings, which may have applications in ceramics or construction materials industries.
  • High standards and accountability: Planning for environmental protection measures and community engagement has been conducted to align with the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’s (IRMA) Standard for Responsible Mining, a comprehensive set of requirements designed to reduce adverse environmental and social impacts and create benefits for local communities. Once operational, the mine would undergo a full third-party verification assessment conducted by an IRMA-approved certification body.
  • Sustainable water management: The mine is designed to operate with collected precipitation to support its operations, relying on external sources only for drinking water, fire protection and sanitary purposes.

With the U.S. currently producing less than 2% of the world’s supply of lithium, the Kings Mountain Mine is expected to play a key role in growing the U.S. supply chain. In 2023, Albemarle was awarded a $90 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to help support the purchase of a fleet of mining equipment as part of the mine’s redevelopment. Lithium is a critical element for key defense applications including batteries for communications equipment and remote and deep-sea sensors, and for carbon dioxide adsorption in submarines, gas masks and the space program. In 2022, Albemarle was also awarded a $150 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles.

Along with the project plan, Albemarle also commenced the public participation portion of a voluntary Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). As a key element of IRMA’s Standard for Responsible Mining, the assessment seeks to better understand and manage potential impacts from the proposed mine with consideration to the surrounding environment, local economy, and the community’s health and safety. Albemarle plans to use the outcomes of the assessment to develop environmental and social management plans to minimize adverse impacts and enhance benefits.