Gaston County lithium mine may not start production until 2027
The company that wants to build a lithium mine in northern Gaston County says the mine won't open until 2027 at the earliest because of permitting and other delays.
Piedmont Lithium has proposed the mine and processing operation to meet the growing demand for lithium by electric vehicle and battery makers. To get at the lithium-bearing ore, Piedmont would dig multiple open pits more than 500 feet deep on about 1,500 acres of residential and agricultural land east of Cherryville.
The company had hoped to be in production by now, despite significant opposition from residents who worry about environmental damage and a change in their quality of life. But plans have been slipping back. Last fall, CEO Keith Phillips told WFAE he hoped to open the mine in 2026. Now executives now say production won't start until at least 2027, for a variety of reasons:
- Piedmont still needs a state mining permit. It submitted its application in 2021 and has been answering regulators' questions and providing additional information since then. Among the questions has been how the mine and processing plant will treat wastewater. In April, the local Two Rivers Utilities told regulators in a letter that its Long Creek treatment plant has the capacity to handle the expected discharges from the mine and processing operation.
- The company is awaiting approval for a federal air quality permit.
- Once those permits are in hand, Piedmont plans to seek rezoning approval from Gaston County. Some county commissioners have been skeptical of the plan, but the county has updated its zoning rules to address projects like this one. And some nearby residents oppose the plan, setting up a potential fight.
- Meanwhile, Piedmont still must raise nearly a billion dollars from investors to build the mine and processing plant.
"A combination of variables determine our estimated timeline and some of these activities are taking longer than initially anticipated," said Patrick Brindle, Piedmont's chief operating officer. "Our current first production target of 2027 best fits our expectations in terms of permitting, project financing, equipment deliveries, estimated construction schedules, and development timelines for other projects in our global portfolio."
Piedmont has expanded its vision for the business, which now includes building a processing plant in Tennessee and getting lithium from mines in Canada and West Africa.
Brindle said Piedmont expects shipments — and its first revenue — from North American Lithium in Quebec to begin later this year.