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Graphite processing plant will help US secure domestic lithium-ion battery materials supply

Tue, 06/29/2021 - 11:27 -- Paul Crompton
Alabama Graphite Products graphite mining belt map

An advanced graphite processing plant is set to be built in Alabama as the US continues to push for a domestic lithium-ion battery materials supply chain.

The plant will be built by Alabama Graphite Products— a subsidiary of Alabama Graphite Corp.— and its parent company Westwater Resources.

The processing plant near Alexander City will produce around 7,500 tons of battery-grade graphite a year initially, eventually expanding to 15,000 tons. 

An average EV battery needs about 175-200 pounds of graphite; Ford’s new electric F-150 truck is expected to need around 450 pounds of graphite.

Alabama Graphite plans to make an initial investment of $80 million in the graphite processing plant, increasing to $124 million with a second phase.

Construction is expected to begin later this year, with the plant operating by the end of 2022. 

Alabama Graphite Products will receive job and tax credits up to an estimated $29.9 million over 15 years under the Alabama Jobs Acts. 

Alabama Industrial Development and Training will provide Alabama Graphite Products up to $925,000 in job-training and employee recruitment incentives.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said: “This plant not only will make Alabama the U.S. leader in graphite production, the go-to place for this important resource in battery manufacturing, it also will elevate our standing even more as a major player in the fast-growing electric vehicle sector.

“We’re home to four major auto plants, and the ability to source precious materials in state for the lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles will be a big plus in attracting other manufacturing jobs to the state.”

Raw graphite mining

Alabama Graphite is also planning to mine raw graphite in western Coosa County in what was known as the “Alabama Graphite Belt”. 

Westwater Resources acquired mineral rights to around 42,000 graphite-deposit-rich acres in 2018 and expects to begin mining operations by 2028.

Westwater’s president and CEO Chris Jones, said: “All of the graphite used and needed in the United States by the electric vehicle industry is imported.

“Most of it is from China; domestic production of graphite reduces our dependence on foreign sources. Even though the raw graphite we will process into battery-grade material will be imported initially, none of it will be from China. We have secured agreements from other providers.”

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