Kings Mountain lithium mine could reopen to supply battery makers

Reprinted from WFAE.

Charlotte-based Albemarle Corp. is considering reopening an old lithium mine near Kings Mountain to supply electric vehicle battery makers.

The 800-acre site is off Interstate 85 about 35 miles west of Charlotte. Previous owners mined there from the 1940s until the 1980s. But they shut down the mine to focus on cheaper lithium sources in South America.

Now lithium’s value is surging as demand soars for batteries for electric vehicles. Albemarle CEO Kent Masters told Wall Street analysts in December the time is right to revive the mine.

“When you look at last year’s growth rate of nearly 50% and the auto industry’s ambitions for a rapid transition to EVs, it’s easy to see why demand expectations are so bullish. However, meeting this demand will be a challenge,” Masters said.

Albemarle also is considering building a lithium processing facility.

The site is one of two proposed mining and processing operations in the lithium-rich area west of Charlotte. A startup called Piedmont Lithium is seeking permits for an $840 million mine and processing plant in northern Gaston County.

An Albemarle spokeswoman said it’s too early to say how much the Kings Mountain operation would cost.

“We’re in the pre-feasibility assessment phase now so we don’t have numbers yet but projects like this can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to stand up,” Albemarle’s Kelli Hopp-Michlosky said.

The company has not said when it hopes to begin the project.

Albemarle plans a community information meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Kings Mountain Town Hall.