As the lithium race begins to ramp up across the globe, finding ways of developing an independent American supply chain is of utmost importance. This is essential for the future of electric transportation within the country and to protect the United States’ economic influence around the world. If the U.S. fails to secure a reliable domestic lithium stockpile, Americans will become increasingly dependent on the foreign powers who control the majority of global reserves. Thankfully, companies are now combing the countryside for any lithium or cobalt deposits to mitigate that risk.
Also known as Piedmont Lithium, the company has made multiple filings that indicate a burgeoning interest in North Carolina as a potential hotbed for lithium mining. In late August, the company filed applications with both the state Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources and the federal Advanced Technologies Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program. For a state mining permit and a Department of Energy loan, respectively, these applications show that Piedmont is going through the process of getting both the funding and the authorization to open up lithium mines in the Tar Heel state.
While the details of how Piedmont’s mining operation is expected to function are slim, it is clear that the company has had North Carolina in its sights for quite some time. The firm had originally planned to have the required permits submitted and approved back in 2019 before the scope of the global lithium shortage had been fully realized. As has been the case with the vast majority of companies worldwide, however, Piedmont’s plans were put on hold during the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Now two years later, the company is just months away from beginning operations as soon the 60-day Gaston County moratorium on mining expires. The suspension sprung out of reports of hesitancy within groups of community residents and certain county commissioners. Piedmont has been addressed as something to keep in mind when coordinating specifics of their upcoming plans. In response, Piedmont has announced that they will be mining below the region’s water table. This is done so that the area’s water supply is unaffected by any drilling. If there are further complaints, however, Piedmont has committed to drilling even deeper than initially planned. Additionally, equipment will be installed around the perimeter of the mine to monitor the status of the groundwater.
Despite pushback from parts of the community, many within Piedmont are optimistic about the potential of a partnership with Gaston County and its residents. “We’re very confident that we’ve done our homework and are applying the newest technology, the best technology to make sure that we meet all of the requirements or really far exceed whatever the demands would be,” says Brian Risinger, vice president of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations at Piedmont. Keith Phillips, president, and CEO of Piedmont expressed similar confidence over the prospect of extracting lithium as sustainably as possible while also helping local economies flourish. “We have been extremely rigorous in planning our operations, with an intense focus on safety, sustainability, and environmental protections within the communities where we plan to operate,” said Phillips in a statement.