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Piedmont Lithium has July deadline to give details on proposed Gaston County mine

A contractor for Piedmont Lithium drilled for core samples as the company tested for lithium deposits in northern Gaston County.
David Boraks
A contractor for Piedmont Lithium drilled as the company tested for lithium deposits in northern Gaston County in 2019.

A company seeking a state permit for a lithium mine in northern Gaston County has until mid-July to answer state regulators' questions about the project's potential environmental effects.

Piedmont Lithiumplans the mine and processing operation on 1,548 acres east of Cherryville. It expects to sell the lithium to electric vehicle battery makers, including Tesla.

Piedmont applied for the permit last year. The state Department of Environmental Quality sought additional information in a January letter. Many of the questions concern air and water quality, including details on pollutants to be discharged. Officials also have questions about an archaeological survey of cemeteries and historic sites in the area.

The $840 million project would include four open pits averaging 572 feet deep and require withdrawing up to 2.3 million gallons of water a day. The area currently is agricultural and residential, with several streams running through it. Piedmont says it has acquired or has contracts on most of the property.

The 20-year state mining permit would require Piedmont to clean up and restore the site after mining ends. Piedmont says in its application that it expects to turn two of the four pits into 390-foot deep lakes. The other two would be filled and replanted.

If Piedmont's replies satisfy regulators, a decision on the permit could come by mid-August. Or regulators could request more information.

A Piedmont spokeswoman says the company is waiting for the mining permit before it pursues the next major hurdle: a county rezoning vote.

Last year, county commissioners ordered a moratorium on new mines so they could develop zoning rules for the project. Those rules were approved in September. So far, most county commissioners have been cool to the idea.

This story originally appeared in WFAE's weekly Climate newsletter, which is published Thursdays. Subscribe at https://www.wfae.org/climate-newsletter-signup.

Support for WFAE's climate coverage comes from our members, the Salamander Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation and the l Earth Fund, dedicated to improving local reporting on our changing climate.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.