A company’s plan to enter the fast-growing global market for lithium faces local fears that a proposed new mine in Gaston County will hurt residents’ health, environment and quality of life.
As Keith Phillips, CEO of the mining company Piedmont Lithium, prepares to meet with county commissioners for the first time on Tuesday evening, here’s what you should know about lithium and the mine proposal:
WHAT IS LITHIUM?
Lithium is a key component of batteries used in electric cars, bikes, wheelchairs, scooters and personal electronic devices. The global lithium-ion battery market was projected to more than triple over eight years, from $36.7 billion in 2019 to $129.3 billion in 2027, according to a study published by market research firm Valuates Reports.
Piedmont hopes to extract 278,000 tons of lithium-rich ores each year from its Gaston County properties, located south of Hephzibah Church Road east of Cherryville, about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte, the Gaston Gazette reported. The company would also mine several hundred thousands of tons of other valuable minerals, including quartz, feldspar and mica.
These operations would employ about 500 people, the company estimates.
WHY GASTON COUNTY?
The Charlotte area once led the world in lithium exports.
Stretching from near Gaffney, S.C., to southwest of Hickory, the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt provided most of the western world’s lithium from the 1950s to the 1980s, according to Piedmont Lithium’s 2020 annual report. Producers then turned to cheaper deposits in South America and Australia, the Observer previously reported.
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