Demand for lithium, a key component for electric vehicle batteries, is expected to grow from 500,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate in 2021 to three to four million metric tons in less than a decade, according to McKinsey & Company.
Albemarle, the world’s largest producer of the critical metal and operator of mines in Australia, Chile and the United States, says it plans to open another domestic lithium mine by 2027, Kings Mountain in North Carolina. He is already working on Silver Peak in Nevada.
Albemarle is also building a $1.3 billion processing plant in South Carolina, where it will process lithium hydroxide for batteries. The plant will support the production of 2.4 million electric vehicles annually and will be able to recycle lithium from recycled batteries.
Despite this growth, Albemarle faces a number of potential headwinds, including a possible economic downturn that could slow demand for electric vehicles, new battery chemistries that could reduce the need for lithium, battery recycling and additional competitors. Tesla began construction of a lithium plant in Texas in 2023.
To better understand how lithium, known as “white gold,” is mined, the challenges involved, and the path forward for production, CNBC took a behind-the-scenes look at Albemarle’s operations in Chile and the U.S.
Watch the video to learn more.