US-based Piedmont Lithium has secured mining permit approval for its Carolina Lithium project in Gaston County, North Carolina, which will facilitate the construction and operation of the proposed facility.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s (NCDEQ) Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) approved the permit after a review that lasted nearly two and a half years.

Piedmont, which supplies lithium to US electric vehicle maker Tesla, submitted the mining permit application to the DEMLR on 30 August 2021.

This permit is conditional on the posting of a $1m reclamation bond, Reuters reported.

Additionally, the company is required to conduct regular tests on water quality and water table levels.

The state officials have mandated the use of a synthetic liner for a waste storage pit, which is a deviation from the usual earthen liner requirement, according to the news agency.

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Piedmont Lithium president and CEO Keith Phillips noted that Carolina Lithium is poised to be a low-cost producer of spodumene concentrate and lithium hydroxide.

He added that the facility would benefit from existing infrastructure, minimal transportation distances, low energy costs and a local workforce.

Additionally, the proximity to key customers and the opportunity to monetise byproduct industrial minerals within local markets were also highlighted.

Phillips indicated that the North Carolina mining permit is a precursor to the county rezoning process.

He mentioned that construction would commence after the receipt of all necessary permits, rezoning approvals and completion of project financing activities.

Phillips added: “We plan to develop Carolina Lithium as one of the lowest-cost, most sustainable lithium hydroxide operations in the world, and as a critical part of the American electric vehicle supply chain.

“The project is expected to contribute billions of dollars of economic output and several hundred jobs to Gaston County and North Carolina’s growing electrification economy.

“Located within both the renowned Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt and the US Battery Belt, the project is being designed as a fully integrated mining, spodumene concentrate and lithium hydroxide manufacturing operation.

“There are currently no such integrated sites operating anywhere in the world, and the economic and environmental advantages of this strategy are compelling.”