Department of Defense solidifies agreements with Albemarle, Talon Nickel to expand domestic lithium mining and nickel production

The U.S. Department of Defense announced two new agreements this week meant to shore up domestic manufacturing and mining operations for critical metals: lithium and nickel.

For lithium, that resulted in a $90 million agreement with Albemarle Corporation to support the expansion of domestic mining and production in support of U.S. battery supply chains. Arrangements were made under the Defense Production Act (DPA) and through the Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization (MCEIP) office to back Albemarle’s planned re-opening of the Kings Mountain, North Carolina lithium mine.

This should result in new operations at the mine between 2025 and 2030.

“The agreement with Albemarle demonstrates the DoD’s ongoing commitment to meeting the needs of our warfighter, today and in the future,” Anthony Di Stasio, MCEIP director, said. “This investment directly supports President Biden’s April 2022 Presidential Determination for Critical Materials in Large-Capacity Batteries.”

MCEIP has a five-year investment plan to secure supply chains for minerals and materials deemed critical to both the DoD and the commercial sector. Like many materials needed for modern technology, the largest reserves of lithium currently come from China, and as relationships between the U.S. and China have soured, the push for domestic options has increased.

In a similar vein, a separate $20.6 million agreement under the DPA was reached between the MCEIP and Talon Nickel, LLC. This arrangement targets the advancement of nickel exploration and mineral resource definition at the Tamarack Intrusive Complex. Talon created an Advanced Exploration System (AES) for geophysical mapping to identify new mineral resources within two zones of the TIC in less than a year.

Currently, the United States maintains just one operating nickel-cobalt mine and it is only expected to run through 2026. Despite this, nickel is an essential part of high-temperature aerospace alloys, stainless steel and chemicals for lithium-ion batteries.

Chris Galford

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