The US Department of Defense (DoD) has agreed to provide more than $110m in grants to miners Albemarle and Talon for the domestic production of critical minerals including lithium and nickel.

Albemarle will receive a $90m grant under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to help facilitate the expansion of domestic mining and production of lithium.

The company will use the proceeds to buy a fleet of mining equipment for the restart of its lithium mine in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. 

Kings Mountain is known to contain hard rock lithium deposits and is expected to feed sufficient material for a lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) conversion capacity of 50 kilotonnes. This will be sufficient for the production of 1.2 million electric vehicles a year.

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Albemarle expects the mine to be operational in late 2026, pending approvals. It is currently implementing the initiative for responsible mining assurance (IRMA)-ready standards with an emphasis on environmental stewardship and community engagement.

Albemarle energy storage president Eric Norris said: “As one of the only US-based lithium companies to carry out lithium extraction, processing and novel lithium battery material research in the United States, Albemarle is uniquely positioned to help power the clean energy revolution.

“Lithium is an essential ingredient in our sustainable energy future. Demand is expected to increase significantly, and it is imperative to secure our nation’s supply of this critical resource.”

Talon Metals’ unit Talon Nickel has reached an agreement with the DoD’s Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization.

The funding will support the company’s drilling and geophysics teams to expand staff headcount, buy more equipment, and speed up its initiatives to discover and delineate more nickel deposits within the Midcontinent Rift geology in the country.

As per the agreement, the DoD will contribute $20.6m and Talon will contribute $21.7m.

Talon CEO Henri van Rooyen said: “This funding makes clear that domestic supply of nickel is a national security priority. Congress and the Biden Administration have created powerful new tools to build up a domestic supply of critical minerals required for clean energy systems and national defence. 

“With this funding, Talon will be able to accelerate our efforts to discover domestic sources of battery-grade nickel and help ensure that the United States is not dependent on Russia, China or Chinese companies operating in countries like Indonesia for nickel that is needed in both defence platforms and clean energy systems.”