Albemarle is set to build a lithium processing plant in the US to meet the growing demand for the electric vehicle (EV) battery metal, reported Reuters citing an executive.

The move forms part of Albemarle’s strategy to lead the lithium revitalisation in the North American country, from mine development to processing and manufacturing the metals used to produce high-end EV batteries.

Albemarle lithium division head Eric Norris was cited by the news agency as saying that the company anticipates an increase in lithium demand in the US as the country witnessed a major shift with an ‘unprecedented’ number of EV manufacturing facilities announced in the last nine months.

Norris said that the new processing plant will be equipped to have a 100,000tpa capacity in the US Southeast. It is planned to be built within rail access of a major port.

Speaking at the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Norris stated: “There isn’t enough (lithium) supply yet to supply the ambitions of the US. This (processing plant) will be essential for our success in the future.”

Albemarle, which is in talks with automakers for buying supply from the new lithium facility, already supplies major car manufacturers, including Tesla.

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At the conference, the US-based firm said that the lithium plant would be integral in supporting its plans to increase total production output fivefold to 500,000tpa by the end of this decade.

Albemarle plans to self-fund the facility, which will receive lithium sourced from the company’s Kings Mountain mine in North Carolina.

Although the mine is currently decommissioned, it could be reopened as soon as 2027.

Furthermore, the proposed plant is expected to feature a similar design to Albemarle’s recently opened processing plant in Kemerton, Western Australia.