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Gaston County bans mining for 60 days following concerns over proposed lithium mine

The moratorium is aimed directly at Piedmont Lithium, which is pursuing a controversial plan to build an open-pit lithium mine near Cherryville.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Gaston County commissioners voted unanimously Friday to impose a 60-day moratorium on all mining activities in the county.

The order came as homeowners organized against Piedmont Lithium's plans to build an open-pit lithium mine east of Cherryville.

Besides preventing Piedmont Lithium from doing any exploratory drilling, the moratorium sets a deadline for commissioners to develop new regulations to govern the company's proposed mine, which would be the first of its kind in the county.

The company already announced plans to supply Tesla with lithium for its electric car batteries.

Libby Carpenter is relieved about the moratorium as she fears the mine will poison nearby streams and neighbors' water wells.

"It was like a victory. First victory," Carpenter said. "We know this can be a long struggle, but we're in it. No matter how it ends, we're going to hang in there."

Brian Risinger, Piedmont Lithium's vice president of corporate communications, said the company is encouraged by the delay, and he said it will allow them to show they will be good neighbors.

"We believe that this will be a great investment for the county and the country when it comes to economic development, economic prosperity and energy independence," Risinger said.

But Leanne Pembleton is skeptical about the proposed mine's safety, and she hopes commissioners will listen to the pleas of neighbors.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 'We're frustrated.' | Gaston County leaders, homeowners slam Piedmont Lithium as company pushes for zoning change

"I'm glad we have the moratorium," Pembleton said. "We can exactly determine how polluting it's going to be in this area in the county."

Piedmont Lithium said it planned to submit an application for a state mining permit next week.

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