Albemarle to build major lithium processing plant in Southeast US

Mining giant Albemarle plans to build a lithium processing plant in the US that would produce as much of the light white metal as the entire company produces today. Albemarle says the plan reflects its strategy “to lead the US lithium renaissance, from mine development to processing to manufacturing types of the metal used to make EV batteries.”

Eric Norris, head of Albemarle’s lithium division, said the company has seen a major shift in the last nine months in the US, as an “unprecedented” number of EV manufacturing plants have been announced. The company believes this will fuel a surge in lithium demand, and aims to build a processing plant with 100,000 tons of annual capacity somewhere in the US Southeast with rail access to a major port.

“There isn’t enough [lithium] supply yet to supply the ambitions of the US,” Norris told the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials conference in Phoenix. “This [processing plant] will be essential for our success in the future.”

Albemarle is in active discussions with automakers on buying supply from the facility, Norris said. The company already supplies Tesla and several other major automakers.

The US plant would be of a similar design to a processing plant Albemarle recently opened in Kemerton, Western Australia. It would be supplied from lithium extracted from the company’s Kings Mountain mine in North Carolina, which is currently mothballed but may reopen as soon as 2027.

Albemarle aims to boost its overall lithium production capacity fivefold to 500,000 tons per year by 2030.

Source: Reuters