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Gaston County poised to benefit from lithium boom

The chemical element is in high demand as the electric car industry continues its growth.

BESSEMER CITY, N.C. — Gaston County is poised to play a major role in the electric car industry as demand surges for lithium, the chemical element that powers an electric car's battery.

The county is home to one of the world's most abundant lithium deposits, and after more than two years of drilling and research, Piedmont Lithium hopes to construct an open-pit mine to extract the element.

Patrick Brindle, the company's vice president of project management, said Gaston County supplied a high amount of lithium in the late 20th century before companies moved overseas.

He said the growth in cell phones and electric cars using lithium-ion batteries is fueling new demand for the county's supply.

"There couldn't be a better place to operate than North Carolina," he said.

The company is in the process of getting permits for the mine, which, the company estimates, will result in a $130 million investment that would create 100 to 150 jobs.

Brindle said the company is aware of local concerns about pollution. He said the operation will have minimal impact, and the mine will not have a tailing pond like a steam station.

Brindle also said they're avoiding high-quality streams in the area, and they'll be recycling the majority of water it uses at its future mine site.

"To own an electric vehicle that was made in the U.S. by Tesla, for example, I would want to know that the raw materials that go into the car are developed in the right way," Brindle said. "That's going to be happening here."

The company expects to get permits for the mine in late-2019, and it expects to begin operations in 2021.

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