Albemarle, Caterpillar Forging Alliance at Lithium Mine

Oct. 2, 2023
The two companies will collaborate on ideas and projects focused on a “full-circular battery value chain and sustainable mining operations. The project at Kings Mountain will utilize new-generation, battery-powered mining equipment

Mining firm Albemarle and energy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar are going to work together on trying to transform a North Carolina site into the first carbon-free lithium mine in North America.

The two companies will collaborate on ideas and projects focused on a “full-circular battery value chain and sustainable mining operations,” according to the release. The project at Kings Mountain will utilize new-generation, battery-powered mining equipment.

Lithium produced by Albemarle’s mines in North America will be used in Caterpillar battery production, according to the release. They will also look for ways to collaborate on research and development of battery cell and recycling technologies.

"It’s a win-win-win scenario, in which we are both customers and suppliers of each other, and the innovation we pursue together benefits the world,” Eric Norris, Albemarle’s Energy Storage President, said in a statement. “Beyond supplying infrastructure and materials, the battery-powered Caterpillar machinery and potential improvements to cell technology will open up new possibilities for the future of sustainable mining.”

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Lithium is currently the primary element in most electric vehicles, which are expected to grow their share of the transportation sector and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cars and trucks. Mining lithium, however, has its own carbon footprint, which Albemarle has worked to reduce emissions at its Salar de Atacama operation.

 “The agreements for lithium offtake and potential collaboration on R&D signed today will help to advance this work and further build out a secure, resilient and sustainable value chain for electrified equipment across the Caterpillar portfolio, while also supporting Albemarle’s journey to more sustainable operations,” Rod Shurman, Caterpillar senior vice president for electrification and energy solutions, said.

Many mines are located in remote regions and require independent, on-site power such as microgrids. The growth of microgrids in mining operations also has grown as companies explore renewable energy and cleaner combined heat and power (CHP) plant alternatives.

Albemarle recently received a $90 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to expand production of EV battery raw materials and reopened the closed mine. Kings Mountain is considered to hold one of the biggest lithium reserves in North America.

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About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.

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