Graphite production expands in Alabama, Tennessee

Mining, refining support battery production

Electric vehicle ready for a charge

Westwater Resources announced plans for a new graphite processing plant in Alabama today while Novonix announced plans to expand its graphite plant in Tennessee yesterday.

Westwater’s operation will begin with a plant to purify and process graphite, beginning next year. The plant represents an $80 million investment now, growing to $124 million, in Kellyton, near Alexander City.

Within the decade, Westwater also plans to mine graphite on the 42,000 acres where it owns mineral rights.

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Novonix plans to invest $160 million in its Tennessee operations, PureGraphite. The Chattanooga plant was established in 2017 “to develop and commercialize ultra-long-life, high performance anode material for the lithium-ion battery market, specifically for electric vehicles and similar storage applications.”

Both companies hope to profit by providing a source of graphite — fundamental to production of lithium-ion batteries — within the U.S. to replace that imported from China.

Both projects have received state incentives and both governors point to the potential value these projects could have on local automotive manufacturers.

“The automotive industry is shifting to an all-electric future, and we are focused on supporting companies that boost Tennessee’s presence in the EV space. Novonix’s decision to increase U.S.-based lithium-ion battery production from Chattanooga is an enormous vote of confidence to the region and its business landscape,” said Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. 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.”

The federal government has declared graphite to be critical to the nation’s economy and national security, Westwater CEO Christ Jones noted.

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