Demand for lithium, a key component for electric vehicle batteries, is expected to surge from 500,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate in 2021 to three to four million metric tons by 2030, according to McKinsey & Company.
Albemarle, the world’s top producer of this critical metal and the operator of mines in Australia, Chile and the U.S., says it plans to bring another domestic lithium mine online by 2027 — Kings Mountain in North Carolina.
“We need to get the green stuff out and that will produce what’s called a spodumene concentrate,” said Matthew Hastings, group geologist for Albemarle. “That concentrate will run about 6% lithium oxide, so the intent there is to produce that concentrate, that will be what we give to conversion facilities.”
That concentrate will likely end up in Albemarle’s soon to be built $1.3 billion processing facility in South Carolina where it is turned into battery-grade lithium hydroxide. The plant will support the manufacturing of 2.4 million electric vehicles annually and be able to process lithium from recycled batteries.
But despite that growth Albemarle faces a number of potential headwinds including a possible economic downturn that could slow the demand for EV’s, new battery chemistries that could reduce the need for lithium, battery recycling and additional competitors. Tesla began construction of a lithium refinery in Texas in 2023.
To better understand how lithium, known as “White Gold”, is extracted, the challenges involved and where production is moving to next, CNBC got a behind the scenes look at Albemarle’s operations in Chile and the U.S. Watch the video to learn more.
00:00 — Introduction
02:56 — History
05:55 — Chile
08:42 — Domestic production
11:46 — The future
Produced and Shot by: Shawn Baldwin
Edited by: Nic Henry
Supervising Producer: Jeniece Pettitt
Additional Camera: Katie Brigham, Magdalena Petrova
Graphics: Christina Locopo
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