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Charlotte-based Albemarle cuts back on ambitious plans, cuts jobs as lithium slumps

Albemarle Corp. plans to reopen this former lithium mine in Kings Mountain.
Albemarle Corp.
Albemarle Corp. plans to reopen this former lithium mine in Kings Mountain.

Facing a slowdown in the electric vehicle market and slumping lithium prices, Charlotte-based Albemarle Corp. announced plans to slash costs on Wednesday.

Albemarle has been working to reopen a lithium mine in Kings Mountain, as well as a new lithium processing plant in Richburg, S.C., and a research center in Charlotte. The processing plant and the Charlotte research center are now on hold. Albemarle didn't say how long it plans to defer those investments.

Albemarle said it’s prioritizing getting the Kings Mountain mine up and running. The mine has been closed since 1988. Albemarle plans to begin draining the lake that's there now this year. The company still needs a state mining permit but hopes to reopen the mine as soon as late 2026.

The mine could produce enough raw minerals to yield 50,000 metric tons of processed lithium annually — enough to supply batteries for 1.2 million electric vehicles per year.

On Wednesday, Albemarle said it will cut up to $500 million from its expected capital spending next year, as well as laying off an unspecified number of workers. The company plans to cut up to $95 million from its annual operating costs.

Albemarle blamed changing market conditions, as the EV market lags and some clean energy projects struggle. Lithium prices have slumped on the open market as well. Lithium is the key component in rechargeable batteries.

"The actions we are taking allow us to advance near-term growth and preserve future opportunities as we navigate the dynamics of our key end-markets," said Albemarle CEO Kent Masters in a written statement. "The long-term fundamentals for our business are strong and we remain committed to operating in a safe and sustainable manner. As a market leader, Albemarle has access to world-class resources and industry-leading technology, along with a suite of organic projects to capture growth." 

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Ely Portillo has worked as a journalist in Charlotte for over a decade. Before joining WFAE, he worked at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Charlotte Observer.