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A local lithium mine and the global struggle against climate change

A map shows the area of lithium deposits in Gaston County.
Piedmont Lithium
A map shows the area of lithium deposits in Gaston County.

About 30 miles from Charlotte, Piedmont Lithium is seeking to open a lithium mine.

Lithium is a key ingredient in most electric car batteries, and the element is both expensive and in high demand. Lithium’s price has surged by 900% in recent years, and President Biden set a goal for 50% of all new vehicles sold by 2030 to be electric.

But in Gaston County, where Piedmont Lithium has proposed the mine, some local landowners aren’t keen on the project. The plans call for a handful of 500-foot-deep open-pit mines, which would mean bulldozed homes and upended forest.

Across the globe, everything from wildfires to floods is becoming more common as climate change continues to worsen. While advocates argue electric cars and lithium are crucial tools to fight climate change, critics worry local communities pay the price.

We sit down with a local resident and activist as well as two energy reporters and analysts.


Michael Hager, member of Stop Piedmont Lithium, former North Carolina House majority leader

Ivan Penn, alternative energy reporter for the New York Times

Vince Beiser, journalist and author of “The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization”

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Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.