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Piedmont Lithium submits application for North Carolina mining permit

"Stop Piedmont Lithium" organizers are pushing people to submit complaints to North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality.

CHERRYVILLE, N.C. — Piedmont Lithium's plans to extract lithium buried within Gaston County remain years behind schedule as the company only recently submitted its mining permit application to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The company originally told WCNC Charlotte it expected to have its permits by late-2019 and complete construction by 2021.

Recently, homeowners living near the proposed mine site have publicly opposed the plan, and the company is facing an investor lawsuit.

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The company is also still under a 60-day moratorium to conduct mining activities after Gaston County commissioners expressed concerns about the company's plans.

Since commissioners voted on the moratorium, Commissioner Chad Brown said they've hired outside counsel with mining expertise.

"We're trying to do our due diligence in order to protect the citizens of Gaston County," Commissioner Brown said. "We can't just make rash decisions."

County staffers have also been meeting with the company, and they will present their findings to commissioners before the moratorium expires next month.

Despite the moratorium, Piedmont Lithium was still able to submit its application for a state mining permit.

According to the application, the company will be mining below the area's water table, and if people's wells are adversely impacted, the company will offer to drill new, deeper wells.

They also plant to install equipment around the mine's perimeter to monitor the groundwater.

The application also reported about 10% of the native rock in the company's east pit is potentially acid-producing, which, according to DEQ, could lead to rock slides and kill animals in nearby waterways.

But Piedmont Lithium's Brian Risinger said the company is confident they can be good, safe neighbors.

"We're very confident that we've done our homework and are applying the newest technology, the best technology to make sure that we meet all of the requirements or really far exceed whatever the demands would be," Risinger said.

Organizers of the group "Stop Piedmont Lithium" were unavailable for an interview, but representatives told WCNC Charlotte they had several concerns about the permit, and they're pushing people to submit complaints to North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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