NC Mine Delay Could Affect Tesla’s 2022–2023 Lithium Supply

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Tesla’s lithium supply for next year could be affected by a North Carolina mining project’s failure to stick to the agreed production timeline.

Last year, Tesla signed a supply agreement with Piedmont Lithium, a company developing a lithium project in Gaston County, North Carolina. The EV manufacturer agreed to buy about one-third of Piedmont’s planned 1,600,000 tonnes annual spodumene lithium production for at least five years.

The first deliveries were planned between July 2022 and July 2023, but it looks like that won’t happen as the timeline has been delayed. That’s because Piedmont announced it still hasn’t submitted its mining permit application, with the definitive feasibility study expected in the second half of 2021.

As a result, Piedmont Lithium told Reuters that it would delay first shipments of lithium chemicals to Tesla and that it does not have a definitive date for when deliveries could begin.

Last month, the news agency reported that North Carolina officials have expressed concerns about Piedmont’s mining project, which would be one of the largest US lithium mines. The company plans to apply for a North Carolina mining permit this month, but the state may now delay or even block it.

Meanwhile, Tesla is building a plant in Texas that will convert Piedmont’s spodumene concentrate into lithium hydroxide, a key ingredient for EV batteries. According to state records, the carmaker applied for Texas permits for its facility in April, though it is unclear when the unit will be operational.

Piedmont said it is trying to align its project development schedule with that of Tesla. The company is looking for investors to fund its $840 million mining project and will apply next month for a loan from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program.

While the mining project’s delay is obviously a setback for Tesla, it’s likely not a major one as the EV manufacturer has several supply deals with bigger lithium producers. Last week, Tesla announced that it plans to secure 100 GWh of new annual battery cell production by the end of next year.



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