Kings Mountain, a world-class facility, a world-class resource

Demand for lithium-ion batteries is growing at an exciting rate, driven in large part by increasing global demand for electric vehicles, mobile devices, and grid storage. We see these as essential markets intended to improve our quality of life by reducing air pollution, promoting electronic mobility, enabling portable medical devices, and advancing renewable energy. And at the heart of it, all is lithium.

Albemarle is one of the largest lithium companies in the world; it is also currently the only U.S.-based lithium company with multiple U.S. sites for lithium extraction, processing, and novel materials R&D to enable the next frontier of lithium-ion battery performance.

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Lithium is an element found naturally occurring in Earth’s crust. Unlike gold and copper, lithium is not found as a standalone element (otherwise known as a Native Element); instead is found as part of compounds that make up minerals that makeup rocks. When there is a significant amount of lithium-bearing rocks in a single area, we consider/call that a lithium deposit. Through mining and processing of the minerals and rocks that contain lithium, we can create a variety of non-naturally occurring lithium compounds such as lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide, and lithium chloride.

A drilling process known as diamond borehole core drilling (known as DD) is used to collect primary data from the deposit. These DD boreholes are initially spread throughout the footprint of the deposit, and as confidence in the deposit increases, the DD boreholes are drilled closer and closer together. DD provides a variety of data, including, but not limited to, lithology/rock identification, mineral identification, assays/geochemical results, and geotechnical information. With this data, a resource model will be created. Resource models determine the quality and quantity of the resource.

The deposit found in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, is part of the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt within the Inner Piedmont terrane, to the west and along the Kings Mountain. This area is well known for its lithium resources.  In fact, Kings Mountain is believed to be among one of the largest resources in the world.

Hard rock lithium deposits, like those at Kings Mountain, are typically found in pegmatites, which are igneous rocks with very large crystals of granitic composition. Not all pegmatites have lithium, but those that do contain the minerals spodumene, lepidolite, and petalite. Spodumene is the most abundant lithium mineral at Kings Mountain. Hard rock pegmatite deposits often have higher concentrations of lithium than salt flats or brine pools, which can make them more cost-effective to mine.