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Gaston commissioners considering temporary ban on mining activities

Gaston County commissioners are considering a temporary ban on mining activities following a lithium exploration business presented plans to commissioners.

Piedmont Lithium, a 24-employee company hoping to develop an $840 million mining operation in northwest Gaston County, has spent the last several years acquiring land from property owners and drilling core samples roughly six miles east of Cherryville.

However, Piedmont’s current operations in northwest Gaston County could be put on hold. If approved, the temporary moratorium would halt “all land uses involving blasting, dewatering, or mineral excavation and specifically including mining and quarrying,” according to a public meeting notice. A timeline of the potential moratorium wasn’t provided.

Potential moratorium

Chad Brown, a county commissioner, described the potential moratorium as a formality. Gaston County commissioners and the North Carolina Department of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources have yet to greenlight the Piedmont project.

“It’s just something to make sure that everybody is on the same page It’s a ‘hey, let’s look at things, get a deep breath here, see what’s going on and try to move forward,” Brown said.

Piedmont CEO Keith Phillips presented to commissioners publicly for the first time on July 20, 2021. The company hopes to build a processing plant and mineral concentrator, as well as dig several open pits to mine lithium-rich spodumene. The entire operation would employ 500 workers, according to the company’s plans.

Ideally, the company would produce lithium hydroxide, the key component to batteries found in electric vehicles, and supply it to automakers. Piedmont, which also owns stakes in mining operations in Canada and Ghana, has also committed to supplying spodumene to Tesla beginning between July 2022 and July 2023, according to a company announcement last year.

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