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'I'm going to pray for God to intervene' | Gaston County residents organize against proposed open-pit lithium mine

Gaston County has one of the world's most abundant lithium deposits in the world.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A group in Gaston County is trying to stop Piedmont Lithium from building an open-pit mine east of Cherryville.

The county is home to one of the world's most abundant lithium deposits, and the chemical element is critical to power the batteries of electric vehicles and cell phones.

After several years of testing, Piedmont Lithium is in the process of submitting applications and rezoning requests to build the mine.

However, Will Baldwin, who grew up visiting his grandparents near the proposed mine site, fears Piedmont Lithium's plans will damage the surrounding environment.

He's worried dust from the mine will get into nearby Beaverdam and Little Beaverdam Creeks, which flow to the South Fork Catawba River.

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"Mining is extractive, and they're basically taking value out of Gaston County," Baldwin said. "It just doesn't seem like they're going to be good neighbors like other companies could be."

Baldwin and his grandparents are also concerned the mine will destroy important historical sites, which date as far back as the Revolutionary War.

"We love the quiet, natural beauty," Hugh Carpenter, Baldwin's grandfather, said. "I'm going to pray for God to intervene and change the course of this thing."

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Baldwin started an online petition to stop the mine, and he planned to address his concerns to Gaston County commissioners during their Tuesday night meeting.

In a written statement, Piedmont Lithium said, "As a company solely focused on supporting a clean energy economy, and the preservation of a more sustainable planet, being a responsible steward of our environment is an absolute priority for us. We are designing our proposed operations with the goal of being the most sustainable producer of lithium hydroxide in the world to help power the transition to electric vehicles. We understand our neighbors and our customers expect and deserve nothing less than our absolute best effort when it comes to the environment, and especially our water resources. For the past four years we have worked diligently with numerous local, state and federal organizations to ensure our proposed operations will not have a detrimental effect on waterways in our area.  After lengthy background studies we have received required federal permits related to water. Through the Catawba Riverkeeper Piedmont has actually adopted the Beaver Dam Creek, we have worked with the Catawba Riverkeeper to review our plans, and we are going well beyond any minimum requirements established by regulatory agencies. We welcome the opportunity to speak with any member of the community who has concerns about our proposed project, especially as it relates to something as important as water. Any interested member of the community can contact me directly, Brian Risinger, at brisinger@piedmontlithium.com."

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Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.