North Carolina officials have raised concerns over Australian mining company Piedmont Lithium’s plans to establish a mine in Gaston county.

Reuters said the project, which would establish one of the few US lithium producing sites, encountered “scepticism and anger” at a recent meeting with the local county board of commissioners.

The meeting focused on zoning changes required for the mine. County approval is crucial for the project, requiring both zoning variance and state mining permits.

Approval has faced significant hurdles since 2018 with little progress noted.

Piedmont CEO Keith Phillips’ absence from the meeting drew criticism while worries about the mine’s potential impact on local well water supply were expressed. Piedmont said it would assist by facilitating deeper well digging or connecting to municipal water supply.  

The mine’s depth of 500 feet stirred concerns of water scarcity.

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Piedmont signed a lithium supply deal with Tesla in 2020, which was later adjusted after the company sourced temporarily from a Quebec mine. This sourcing was expected to end by 2026.

According to Reuters, Piedmont said it remained open to not discharging processed water into local waterways and funding a substantial mine reclamation bond beyond regulatory demands.

Although residents voiced opposition during the meeting, Piedmont’s spokesperson Erin Sanders said: “Our goal was to answer questions and open a dialogue.”