US lithium major Albemarle Corporation is deploying some of a recently awarded US$90 million US Department of Defense grant to buy Caterpillar battery-powered mining equipment for its proposed $400 million redevelopment of the Kings Mountain hard-rock lithium project in North Carolina, the company said this week.
Albemarle said a two-way collaboration agreement with the construction and mining machinery maker would see domestically-produced lithium used in Caterpillar batteries.
The two companies would explore opportunities to “collaborate on research and development of battery cell technology and recycling techniques”.
Albemarle, which has said it aims to get Kings Mountain back into production by late 2026 if permitting doesn’t get in the way, wants to develop North America’s “first zero-emissions lithium mine” at the site. Previous production at Kings Mountain was shuttered 40 years ago.
Albemarle also secured circa-$150 million of US Department of Energy funding for Kings Mountain.
The government grants are aimed at supporting expansion of domestic mining and production of lithium for the US battery supply chain.
“Beyond supplying infrastructure and materials, battery-powered Caterpillar machinery and potential improvements to cell technology will open up new possibilities for the future of sustainable mining,” Albemarle energy storage president Eric Norris said.
“We look forward to replicating at Kings Mountain the same progress that we have made toward social and environmental responsibility at our Salar de Atacama operation, where we became the first lithium producer in the world to complete a third-party audit and publish our report through the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’s stringent standard.”
Rod Shurman, Caterpillar’s senior vice president of electrification and energy solutions, said the manufacturer was developing lithium-ion batteries and battery-electric products “today” for customers around the world.
“The agreements for lithium offtake and potential collaboration on R&D signed today will help to advance this work and further build out a secure, resilient and sustainable value chain for electrified equipment across the Caterpillar portfolio, while also supporting Albemarle’s journey to more sustainable operations.”