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 US, says it plans to bring another local lithium mine online by 2027 – Kings Mountain in North Carolina. It already operates Silver Peak in Nevada.
Albemarle is also building a $1.3 billion processing facility in South Carolina, where it will process lithium hydroxide for batteries. The plant will support the production of 2.4 million electric vehicles a year and will be able to process 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 chemicals that could reduce the need for lithium, battery recycling and additional competitors. Tesla began construction of lithium refinery in Texas in 2023.
To better understand how lithium, known as “white gold,” is mined, the challenges involved, and where production is next, CNBC took a behind-the-scenes look at Albemarle’s operations in Chile and the U.S.
Watch the video to learn more.