Albemarle is to expand capacity at the company’s lithium production facility in Silver Peak, Nevada and start a programme to evaluate clays and other available State resources for commercial production of lithium.

The company says as global demand for electric vehicles grows, North American automotive manufacturers are seeking to regionalise their supply chain for greater security and sustainability.

Albemarle’s investment in Silver Peak, which produces lithium from brine extracted from the Clayton Valley basin, will support this increased demand for domestic supply of lithium.

Starting this year, the company plans to invest US$30m to US$50m to double current production at the Nevada site by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights. Additionally, in 2021 the company plans to begin exploration of clay and evaluate technology, which could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region. 

“As a leader in the lithium industry, our priority is to optimise our resources and production,” said Albemarle president, Lithium, Eric Norris.

“This includes Silver Peak, a site positioned as the only lithium-producing resource in the United States. “This investment in domestic capacity shows we are committed to looking at the many ways in which Silver Peak can provide domestic support for the growing EV market.”

In addition to examining clay resources, Albemarle is seeking ways to optimise lithium extraction from its brine resources, including those in the Clayton Valley. Through a Department of Energy-sponsored research project with Argonne National Laboratory, the company is investigating a process to streamline production of lithium hydroxide, which is principally used in EV batteries, from brine resources.

Albemarle’s domestic resources also include the 800-acre Kings Mountain, North Carolina, lithium site, which the supplier notes, is one of the richest spodumene ore deposits in the world and home to the company’s global lithium technical centre and piloting operations, as well as lithium-containing brines in Arkansas.