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home : news : e-news July 25, 2021

7/20/2021 9:29:00 PM
To Mine or Not To Mine? That Remains the Question
Keith Phillips, Piedmont Lithium CEO, made his presentation; then came the public comments.
Keith Phillips, Piedmont Lithium CEO, made his presentation; then came the public comments.

Wayne Howard

One year ago, you could buy shares of Piedmont Lithium, Inc. for 11 cents a share. In March of this year, the stock peaked at $1.09 a share. It started July at $1.05, but on Tuesday (July 20th) it had plummeted to 69 cents. If anyone had some PLL stock to sell, they wouldn't have found many buyers at the Gaston County Commissioners meeting Tuesday evening.

One assumes that by now you've probably seen or read some of the reports on Piedmont Lithium's plans to build one of the largest lithium mines in the US near Cherryville. On Tuesday evening, Keith Phillips, President and CEO of Piedmont Lithium made a presentation to Gaston County Commissioners, detailing the company's plans. Phillips noted that the company had earlier expected to make a presentation in March, but wasn't quite ready. The delay gave plenty of time for opposition to the plans to develop and information and misinformation to spread like wildfire.

One of several Commissioners who turned a cold shoulder to the proposal, Tracy Philbeck, said he had never before seen a company start out with as much of 'a bad taste in the mouths of the public and of Commissioners.'

Part of Phillips presentation centered on the importance of lithium because of the coming influx of electric vehicles. In fact, Piedmont's decision to pursue the mine was based on a tentative agreement to supply Tesla. Phillips quoted both President Biden and former President Trump in talking about the need to restore America's mining capabilities to avoid dependence on other countries.

He said that currently 83% of the world's lithium is produced in China.

Philbeck said he appreciated the idea of improving US productivity, but added, "there's no such thing as clean energy."

Commissioner Bob Hovis said he was upset with what he perceived as the company's disrespect for neighbors to the proposed mine.

Hovis questioned whether the company's plans to mine spodumene, from which lithium is extracted, was the right process. Phillips admitted that the procedure Piedmont plans to use, while it has been used before, isn't being used elsewhere now.

Over twenty people spoke during a public comment portion of the meeting, all but three of them against the mine proposal. Some were neighbors to the proposed mine location. They expressed concerns about what effects the mine might have on water quality in the area, about noise and vibration from blasting, and about what would be left when the mining ended.

Tuesday's session was a work session for Commissioners. It was not a hearing on the proposal, which will require a zoning change if it is to happen. Phillips said the company will apply for a mining permit and will have an economic impact study to present in October.

Commissioner Kim Johnson said she was glad finally to get some information about the proposal from the company instead of only from other sources.

Chairman Tom Keigher said this 'opening round' was just that. "We'll have many more questions we'll want answered before we make any decision."

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