- Who is Piedmont Lithium?
Piedmont Lithium is a publicly listed company that trades on Nasdaq and the Australian Securities Exchange (Nasdaq: PLL; ASX: PLL). Founded in 2016, we are focused on establishing an integrated lithium business that will convert lithium resources found in the region into a critical component for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing in the United States.
- Why is Lithium important?
Lithium is an essential part of lithium-ion batteries that are used in electric vehicles (EVs). The global demand for EVs has risen rapidly over the past few years and has the potential to reach more than 30 percent of annual vehicle sales by 2030.
Lithium plays a critical role in much of what we do in our daily lives. In addition to EVs, lithium is an essential part of the technology that powers mobile phones and computers and is used in batteries to store energy generated from wind and solar power.
- Why are we interested in North Carolina?
North Carolina is home to the Carolina Tin Spodumene Belt (TSB). The TSB is the only lithium deposit of its kind in the United States, and one of the most important deposits of lithium in the world. The lithium found in Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland Counties has been an important source of lithium in the past.
North Carolina’s lithium can be used in the future to supply the materials needed to build American EVs, and it can be used to support a new energy economy in the United States that doesn’t rely heavily on other countries.
- Where does lithium come from today?
Today, the majority of lithium comes from mines in Australia or from underground brines in South America. Australian lithium is mostly shipped to China to make lithium chemicals. South American lithium is sourced high in the Andes mountains of Chile and Argentina.
- What is Spodumene?
Spodumene (pronounced ‘spod-you-mean’) is a mineral that contains Lithium. Spodumene is over 8% Lithium by weight and has the highest Lithium content of all known minerals. The Carolina Tin Spodumene belt here in Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland Counties contains high amounts of spodumene. The spodumene will be used to make a concentrate that will then be converted to lithium hydroxide.
- What exactly do you plan to build?
Piedmont plans to construct an integrated lithium hydroxide business that includes several interconnected parts including:
- An open-pit rock quarry that will produce lithium ore
- A concentrator that will upgrade the lithium ore to a mineral concentrate
- A lithium hydroxide plant that will convert the mineral concentrate to lithium hydroxide
- A co-product plant that will make valuable quartz, feldspar, and mica commercial products
- What happens in the Quarry?
In our quarry, we will separate the lithium ore, called a spodumene pegmatite, from the surrounding rock called country rock. We will bring about 1.15 million tons per year of lithium ore from the quarry to the concentrator. We will move about 10 million tons per year of country rock to extract the lithium ore. In the early years of our operation we will stockpile that country rock above ground. In later years of operation we will put the country rock back in the quarry pits.
The quarry will be an open pit and may reach as deep as 500 feet. We have no plans to mine underground.
- What happens at the Concentrator?
The work at the concentrator is to upgrade the lithium ore from about 1% lithium to 6% lithium. The 6% lithium product is called concentrate, or SC6. We produce the SC6 by crushing the lithium ore to about ¼” in size and then separating the spodumene from the other minerals in the lithium ore.
The SC6 product is delivered to the lithium hydroxide plant.
Other minerals quartz, feldspar and mica will be separated out of the lithium ore and sold as valuable commercial products.
There will be some waste left over from the lithium ore. This waste, called dry-stack tailings, will be filtered so that most of the water is removed from it. The remaining material will have the consistency of moist sand. We will mix the dry-stack tailings with the country rock from the quarry.
- How does the Lithium Hydroxide plant work?
We will make Lithium Hydroxide through a safe, proven, and highly technical multi-step process. First, we will heat the SC6 product to around 1000 degrees Celsius. This process, called calcining, makes it possible to remove the lithium from the ore.
After calcining we will use a chemical process to make a lithium solution. We then refine this lithium solution through several stages to remove impurities. Finally, we complete a chemical reaction to convert the lithium solution to lithium hydroxide and undertake concentration steps to produce purified lithium hydroxide crystals which we can then ship to customers.
- What are you doing to support the local community?
In addition to the jobs we hope to create and the more than $40 million we have invested in our project so far, we are also committed to investing our time and resources into our community. We support our communities through a range of activities and charitable contributions, providing diverse and valuable interactions with community members. We have sponsored several initiatives including United Way Christmas Wishes Program, Hocus Pocus Neighborhood Parade in Cherryville, Belmont’s 71st Annual Christmas Parade, Cherryville Dixie Girls Softball League and Price’s Arena Rodeo.
Our core charitable partner is United Way of Gaston County.
Piedmont is also a member of the Montcross Area Chamber, Gaston Business Association and Cherryville Chamber of Commerce.
Piedmont collaborated with Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services (GCDHHS) and University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) on a program called “Healthy Wells II: A Rapid Early Warning System for Monitoring Groundwater Quality and Enhancing Decision Making.”
Through this program, Gaston County hopes to gather data and information which will help improve the ability of rural residents to understand the quality of their well-sourced drinking water.
Piedmont Lithium will continue to collaborate with GCDHHS to develop a potential funding instrument whereby a number of landowners near our quarry can receive subsidized well water testing and or remediation. We continue to look for opportunities to work with the community on many other efforts, including clean air initiatives, public stream clean ups, and education programs through Schiele Museum and Gaston County Schools.
- What kind of guidelines and regulations do you have to follow?
None of our work can be done without following regulations established by federal, state and local governments. There are strict checks and balances throughout this process and it is extremely important to us that we follow these to the letter. We have currently received the necessary approval and permits connected to federal guidelines and are in the process of submitting our plans for review to NCDEQ and Gaston County for approval. We cannot proceed with any step in our development without receiving approval from regulators across a number of jurisdictions. It is extremely important to us that we do this the right way.
- What are you doing to minimize impacts of your operations in the future?
We will continue to invest in our local community through jobs and job training, and we plan to continue to support the organizations that provide for underprivileged members of our community.
We will monitor ground and surface water in the vicinity of our operations on an ongoing basis in accordance with our permit requirements and work with North Carolina and Gaston County to mitigate impacts. Additionally, we will monitor air quality and ground disturbances to minimize our impact to the local area.
We encourage residents to reach out to us for information or if they have questions.
- What are you doing to promote Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives? How are you working to protect the environment?
We are working with Minviro, an environmental advisory firm specializing in Life Cycle Analysis to look at ways that our project can reduce its carbon emissions, water usage, and energy consumption.
We have worked very closely with HDR Engineering in Charlotte to ensure that our project is developed in accordance with all federal, state, and local guidelines.
We are fully committed to producing the lowest-impact, American-made Lithium Hydroxide for American EVs that we can.
- What will be left over after mining operations have finished? What will be left in the community?
As Quarry operations wind down we will undertake final reclamation of the site. What does reclamation mean? As part of the winding down of our operations we’ll cover any of the rock stockpiles with native plants. We will dismantle our concentrator and remove the top of foundations, planting native plants on top.
Our generational goal will be to create usable and visually appealing space that could be used for renewable energy projects, public space like a county park, conservation district, or other development.
One example of a potential public space is to construct a public park similar to the Kings Mountain Gateway Trail in Kings Mountain, which was formerly the country rock stockpile of the Kings Mountain Lithium Mine.
- Why should we support Piedmont Lithium?
Piedmont Lithium is committed to sustainable development of the lithium ore that occurs here in North Carolina. The lithium resources in North Carolina are the most important in the United States and will be an important part of the manufacturing supply chain for American-built Electric Vehicles.
Lithium from North Carolina will be a critical part of reducing America’s dependence on China.
Our business, if successful, will bring many high-paying, highly-skilled jobs to the region and will also create a multiplying effect by making it more attractive for other battery material companies to come to the area.
Every project like ours has some creates some types of impacts. Piedmont Lithium is working very closely with federal, state, and local agencies as well as professional consultants, engineers, and scientists to build a business that minimizes impacts to the environment and to the community.
- Why do you want to start a quarry now? Didn’t the old operation in the area shut down?
North Carolina supplied most of the world’s lithium from the 1950s through the 1980s. After decades of mining, and with their ore bodies largely depleted, the two large mines here closed in the 1980s and the 1990s, a long time before EVs started to become popular and cars like Tesla were available. The market is very different today. The demand for lithium-ion batteries is growing rapidly, especially as the demand for cleaner energy increases. Li-Ion batteries are used in a variety of applications including electric vehicles (EVs), grid level storage to facilitate solar power generation, consumer electronics, medicine, and military applications. Lithium itself is also used in making high-impact glass, ceramics, defense products, tires, and other material applications.
Over 50% of the lithium chemicals produced in the world today come from China. For the electric vehicle industry in the United States to grow, it is important to develop our domestic resources. The lithium resources in North Carolina are the best quality lithium resources in the United States.
With the dramatic growth in demand, it once again makes economic sense to develop the North Carolina deposit. Lithium in North Carolina is especially important because the area has access to skilled people, infrastructure, utilities, rail, a robust regulatory environment and access to customers.
- Where will the quarry be located?
Our quarry and concentrator will be in northwest Gaston County along Hephzibah Church Road, between St. Mark’s Church Road and Aderholdt Road. Our quarry pits will be to the east and west of Beaverdam Creek. Whitesides Road will run between different parts of our operations area.
- How much land is involved?
Piedmont Lithium owns 691 acres of land today. We have contracts to buy or lease about 1,600 acres of land in Gaston and Cleveland counties as of December 31, 2020.
The quarry and concentrate operations will cover about 1,200 acres initially.
Our lithium hydroxide plant is currently planned for a 61 acre site near Kings Mountain. We are also looking at possible sites in Gaston County where we can manufacture lithium hydroxide.
- Will there be underground mining?
- Will there be blasting?
Yes, we will have to blast our lithium ore and country rock as part of our quarry operations.
If you live close to our proposed quarry, you may have received a letter from Piedmont Lithium or Deep Earth Logic regarding a pre-blast survey of your home. If you received this letter, we encourage you to take advantage of this free service.
We have undertaken pre-blast surveys in the area surrounding our project.
We will be required by the state to monitor vibrations associated with our activities. We will locate seismographs at the nearest buildings from our pit in order to measure the impact we have. The limits on vibration and air pressure put in place by the state of North Carolina for mining operations are twice as restrictive as those for general construction, and we will fully comply with these regulations.
- Will the blasting process damage houses or buildings surrounding the quarry?
Vibrations from blasting on site might be felt some distance away from our operation, but we do not expect these vibrations to be strong enough to damage property.
If you are concerned about your property, please contact us to discuss your property, and the possibility of conducting a pre-blasting survey of your property.
- How often will blasting occur at the site?
Blasting may occur as often as a couple times a day, most likely during the shift change when no one is in the pit.
- What is left over from the process? What happens to the country rock?
We will move about 10 million tons per year of country rock to extract the Lithium ore. In the early years of our operations we will stockpile that country rock above ground. In later years of operation we will put the country rock back into the quarry pits.
The stockpile of country rock will be inside our permit boundary. We will combine this country rock with the dry-stack tailings from our concentrator in a stable stockpile.
Eventually we will take country rock and dry-stack tailings and put it back into pits as we exhaust our quarry of lithium ore.
We will reclaim the country rock stockpile on a continuous basis. As the stockpile increases in size we will cover the stockpile with native plants and trees so that it is stable and has the appearance of a natural feature. As we fill pits with country rock and dry stack tailings we will also reclaim these with native plants.
At the end of the quarry life we will have several hills of country rock covered with native plants and one or two pits which will gradually fill with water.
We will post a bond with the state to ensure that we fully reclaim our project in accordance with our permit and state regulations.
- Will there be hazardous materials left over from the quarry, concentrator or lithium hydroxide plant? What are the long term effects of this project?
We have completed testwork on the waste rock and our dry stack tailings to show that they are non-toxic and non-hazardous.
The testwork we have performed and shared with North Carolina and Gaston County show that our waste rock and dry-stack tailings are not acid forming and do not present risks to ground and surface water quality.
We plan to stockpile some of the residue from our lithium hydroxide plant together with our country rock and dry-stack tailings. We have completed testwork to show that this material will be non-toxic and we have shared that data with North Carolina and with Gaston County.
- Is your process anything like fracking?
No. It is nothing at all like that.
- Will you have anything like an impoundment, tailings pond or lagoon, or tailings dam?
No. Our tailings from our concentrator and our lithium hydroxide plant will all be dewatered so that the material has a consistency like moist sand. We will recycle water inside our plants as much as possible and we will not try and impound water, build a dam, pond or similar structure.
- Are you putting any chemicals in the waste pile or the water?
We will not discharge any chemicals from our concentrator or Lithium Hydroxide Plant into ground or surface water.
The dry stack tailings from our Concentrator may have residual reagents from the Lithium ore separation process. We have shared with North Carolina and Gaston County the reagents that we plan to use and we have tested that the concentration of these reagents that is in our dry stack tailings or lithium hydroxide residue is non-toxic and non-hazardous.
We plan to fully separate the stormwater management on our sites from the process water containment on our sites so that we minimize the risk of any accidental discharges of process water into our stormwater system or surrounding ground or surface water.
- What about water usage? What will happen to my well?
We will use water as part of both our concentrator and lithium hydroxide plant. Because we dry our tailings, our water demand in our processing plant is low. We will not have an impoundment, dam, or lagoon. The water that is discharged from our site will be surface runoff from rain and the excess water we will pump from our excavation. We do not expect to have a negative impact on the quality of water in the areas.
As we pump water from our excavation this could result in a lowering of the water table in the immediate area surrounding our operation. We have modeled the effect that our operation may have on surrounding groundwater levels. We update that model as we learn more about the local groundwater system.
We are surveying surrounding wells as part of our pre-blast surveys. We encourage area residents to share information about their wells with us, so that we can mitigate any future impacts.
Access to clean water is an important right that everybody should have. The availability of water supply to area residents is very important to us. If you are concerned about your well, we encourage you to contact us so that we can locate your well in our inventory and make plans to work with you if there is an impact in the future.
- What will you do about air quality and water in and around the mine area?
It will be our duty as operators and stewards of the community that we comply with all state and federal requirements.
We will monitor air and water quality in our operating area according to our permit requirements.
- Are you closing roads in the area? Where?
We propose to close a portion of Hephzibah Church Road which is located entirely within our permit boundary, and we are working on studies to model potential travel time impacts associated with this closure. We are coordinating these activities with Gaston County and NCDOT. Coordination has also been initiated with various emergency services and Gaston County Schools.
- How much truck traffic will there be leaving the site?
We expect that there will be around 2-4 trucks per hour leaving our Concentrator running during daylight hours only, five or six days per week.
- What is your schedule?
Piedmont expects to submit state and county permits in 1st quarter 2021, with construction to start in 2021 and operations to start as early as 2022.
- How much are you investing?
We expect to invest between $500 - $600 million in the region building our Quarry, Concentrator, and Lithium Hydroxide Plant.
We have already invested more than $40 million developing our project.
- How many jobs are you creating?
- The combined business will employ as many as 300 people with salaries starting at $50,000/year.
- What if I am interested to sell my land or my house? Who can I contact?
You can contact our office in Belmont, North Carolina. Please call us ahead of time so we can schedule an appointment for you. Please call 704-461-8000.
Our authorized representatives are Mr. David Brown, Mr. Jonathan Freeman of Carpenter’s Real Estate, Mr. Eric Clay of Coldwell Banker in Belmont, Johnston Allison & Hord of Charlotte, or any direct employee of Piedmont Lithium. If you are contacted by a 3rd party who is representing that they are a broker or land dealer for Piedmont Lithium that is not one of these people, then this person may not be an authorized representative of Piedmont Lithium. If you have questions please contact our office.
- Who will be your customers?
Our operation will be state of the art, so we expect to first be a domestic source of lithium for the lithium battery industry. Our main customers will be auto manufacturers, battery makers, and cathode producers in the United States and Europe.
In 2020, Piedmont entered into a 5-year offtake agreement with Tesla to supply about 1/3 of the company’s planned spodumene concentrate production. This concentrate will be produced from our North Carolina operations and will be delivered to Tesla’s new battery materials campus in Austin, Texas.
- Are you going to have any meetings for area residents or the community?
Yes, we will have public information meetings once we have submitted an application for rezoning in Gaston County. We have not finalized a schedule for when we will submit that application.
We will post our meeting times and locations here on our website and in local papers.
- Who can I contact to learn more?
We continually update news on our website. But if you have questions, contact Malissa Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org