According to McKinsey & Company, demand for lithium, a key component in electric vehicle batteries, is expected to grow from 500,000 tons of lithium carbonate in 2021 to three to four million tons in less than a decade.
Albemarle, the world’s largest producer of this critical metal and operator of mines in Australia, Chile and the US, plans to open another domestic lithium mine by 2027 – Kings Mountain in North Carolina. It already operates Silver Peak in Nevada.
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Albemarle is also building a $1.3 billion processing facility in South Carolina to process battery-grade lithium hydroxide. The facility will support the manufacture of 2.4 million electric vehicles per year and will be able to process lithium from recycled batteries.
Despite that growth, Albemarle faces a number of potential headwinds, including a possible economic downturn that could slow demand for electric vehicles, new battery chemistries that could reduce the need for lithium, battery recycling, and additional competitors. Tesla began building a lithium refinery in Texas in 2023.
To better understand how lithium, known as “white gold,” is extracted, the challenges involved, and where production is headed next, CNBC took a behind-the-scenes look at Albemarle’s operations in Chile and the United States
Watch the video to learn more.