Tesla supplier Piedmont Lithium gets key North Carolina mining permit

Piedmont Lithium Gets Green Light for N.C. Lithium Mine, But Challenges Remain

Piedmont Lithium (PLL.O), a supplier to Tesla (TSLA.O), has received a key permit from North Carolina regulators to develop a major lithium mine. This mine has the potential to be one of the largest sources of lithium in the United States, a critical material for electric vehicle batteries. However, the project still faces some hurdles before it can become a reality.

Permit Granted, Stock Price Jumps

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit, a significant step forward for Piedmont’s plan to mine lithium near Charlotte. The news sent the company’s stock price soaring 33% in morning trading. It’s worth noting that North Carolina has historically approved all mining permit applications.

Local Concerns Remain

Despite the permit approval, there’s still opposition to the project from nearby residents. They’re worried about potential impacts on water quality, noise pollution, and other environmental concerns. This highlights a growing tension across the US: the desire for cleaner technology like electric vehicles clashes with the potential downsides of mining the materials needed to produce them.

Financing and Local Zoning Next Steps

Before breaking ground, Piedmont needs to clear two more hurdles:

  • Local Zoning Variance: The company needs approval from local authorities to rezone the land for mining purposes.
  • Financing: The project is estimated to cost over $1 billion. Piedmont has applied for loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, a program that has already helped competitors like ioneer (INR.AX) and Lithium Americas (LAC.TO).

Long-Term Vision: Sustainable Lithium Production

Piedmont CEO Keith Phillips remains optimistic, stating their goal is to “develop Carolina Lithium as one of the lowest-cost, most sustainable lithium hydroxide operations in the world.” The company already has a deal with Tesla to supply them with spodumene concentrate, a key battery material, through 2025 with a potential three-year extension.

While this permit is a major win for Piedmont, there’s still work to be done before lithium starts flowing from this North Carolina mine.

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