December 2022
AME expects lithium supply from the US to remain at 5kt LCE for 2022 and 2023, with new projects starting to come online in 2024. Over the medium term, lithium supply is expected to grow at a CAGR of 55% to reach 45kt LCE in 2027.

Currently, Albemarle’s Silver Peak project in Nevada is the only operating mine in the US. The lithium giant has announced the expansion of the Silver Peak site which will double in capacity to 10kt LCE by 2025. Albemarle will invest up to US$50m for the expansion project.

Supply will be driven by newly announced projects, with automakers and battery manufacturers scrambling to find a domestic lithium supply chain. Several offtake deals between carmakers and announced projects came weeks after US President Joe Biden announced new EV subsidies for vehicles assembled in North America.

The new bill is expected to incentivise a domestic battery supply chain in the US through its US$7,500 subsidy for EV sourcing their battery materials in North America.


Local Trouble

Lithium Americas’ US$1bn open pit mine project in Nevada faces local opposition. A local coalition made up of ranchers, environmental groups, and tribal members have lodged a bid to block the mine. Environmental groups are protesting that the mining operation will be destructive to the local environment.



The proposed lithium mine is located at Thacker Pass, the largest lithium deposit in the US. The lithium project is expected to have an annual production capacity of 40kt LCE in phase 1, later expanding to 80kt LCE in phase 2.

Lithium Americas said it was continuing to advance a feasibility study for Thacker Pass, with the results expected by the end of the year. In February, the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection issued the final key state level environmental permits. An appeal on the Record of Decision continues to advance through a US Federal Court, with a ruling expected before the end of 2022.

In North Carolina, Piedmont is aiming to build a 500ft deep (150m) open-pit mine, at a cost of US$988m. The mine will produce 30ktpa of lithium hydroxide over a 30-year operational life. Mined spodumene concentrate output would come in at 242ktpa over an ore-reserve life of 11-years.

The project has an estimated NPV of US$2bn according to a Bankable Feasibility Study, released in December 2021. However, the proposed mine has fuelled concerns about levels of dust, noise, and vibrations in the area just outside Charlotte. Those issues are now the focus of the state mining review process, which does not have a clear end date.

As a result, Piedmont does not have an expectation for when its North Carolina operation will open. In January, North Carolina regulators asked Piedmont for more detail on 12 points they felt were not adequately explained in the company's mining permit application.

The company said it has applied for loans from the US Department of Energy, but it would need to have its North Carolina permits before it could receive government support. Meanwhile, major lithium producer Albemarle looks set to reopen its Kings Mountain mine in North Carolina, near Piedmont's proposed site. Albemarle is conducting initial geological tests and the project could open by 2027.

Piedmont Lithium will build a new US$600m lithium processing plant in Tennessee, US. The company plans to supply battery manufacturers with lithium to meet the surging demand from EV growth. Piedmont will construct its lithium plant in Etowah, Tennessee.

The company expects production to start in 2025. The plant will have an annual lithium hydroxide production capacity of 30ktpa. The company will refine lithium concentrates sourced from its international mining projects.

Piedmont’s total production capacity in the US will reach 60ktpa by 2026. Current lithium hydroxide production in the US stands at 15ktpa.



New Players

Exploration company ACME Lithium reported a new lithium discovery at its Clayton Valley lithium brine project in Nevada. Following the discovery, Phase 2 of an expanded drilling and pump test program will start.

The company drilled to 1,400ft (427m) below ground surface to sample brine at different intervals. Lithium was detected in the brine samples with concentrations between 40 and 130mg/L. The lithium concentration was highest at above 1,200ft (365m). The company expects lithium concentrations to increase with depth and temperature.

Phase 2 of the exploration will include three new exploration holes to assess deeper regions. ACME’s Clayton Valley project is contiguous to Albemarle’s Silver Peak lithium deposit. The company earlier in August started Phase 2 field work at its nearby Fish Lake Valley project in Nevada. ACME’s Fish Lake Valley project is west of Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron project. Phase 1 drilling has begun at ACME Lithium’s Clayton Valley Nevada lithium brine project.

Ioneer has signed a binding lithium offtake agreement with Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, a joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic. Ioneer will supply 4ktpa of lithium carbonate for five years. The lithium carbonate will come from ioneer's Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron project in Nevada. The offtake agreement represents one-fifth of the site's annual output. The lithium carbonate will be used to produce batteries for US EV manufacturers.

In July, Ford inked a similar binding deal to source lithium from ioneer's Rhyolite Ridge project. The five-year binding agreement is for a total of 7ktpa of lithium carbonate from Rhyolite Ridge.

Rhyolite Ridge will produce an average of 20.6ktpa of lithium carbonate/hydroxide along with about 174ktpa of boric acid over a 26-year life. It is set to come onstream in 2025. Ford plans to use ioneer's lithium carbonate to produce batteries for use in its EVs through its battery manufacturing joint venture with South Korea's SK Innovation.



Anson Resources executed a binding MOU in August with DLE technology provider Sunresin following 12 months of collaborative work at its Paradox Lithium Project in Utah. Sunresin will provide its DLE technology for the production of battery grade lithium carbonate from lithium-rich brine.

In September, Anson Resources completed the DFS for Phase 1 of its Paradox Lithium Project. Anson aims to become a major supplier of high purity battery grade lithium carbonate to US EV manufacturers. The Paradox Lithium Project is expected to have a production of 13ktpa LCE.

Anson raised US$50m in September to accelerate the development of its project towards a Final Investment Decision expected in the June quarter of 2023.