Piedmont Lithium CEO expects North Carolina project to get state approval


July 3 - Piedmont Lithium Inc expects to receive state regulatory approval for its proposed North Carolina project and have it fully funded by mid 2022, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Piedmont's project would be among the largest US lithium mines and a key domestic source of the white metal for electric vehicle batteries. However, some local elected officials have voiced concerns about its environmental impact and said they could block or delay it.

The company will apply for a state mining permit at mid-August and expects the review process to last six to nine months, CEO Keith Phillips told the Jefferies Virtual Industrial Conference.

We're very optimistic about receiving that permit, Phillips said, adding he expects the company to receive a necessary variance from Gaston County, west of Charlotte. Phillips did not forecast a timeline for county approval.

State officials could not be reached after regular business hours for comment.

State officials told Reuters last month that they expect to see an application in the near future. County officials have said they will not consider a zoning change until a state permit is issued.

During his presentation, Phillips did not discuss an announcement from earlier this week that Tesla Inc has pushed back its timeline to begin shipments of lithium chemicals to Piedmont.

To finance the $640 million project, Pidmont said Phillips expects to rely on an outside loan from the U.S. Department of Energy and an investor who could take a stake in up to half of the project and possibly pay a big price for that. If they don't bring in partners, we won't bring in a partner.

Phillips said he hoped to secure funding by the middle of next year.

The company, which recently took stakes in new lithium projects in Quebec and Ghana, will likely not make other acquisitions in the near future, Phillips added.