Published On: Thu, Apr 27th, 2023

Nation’s first graphite processing plant breaks ground in Alabama

KELLYTON, Ala. (WSFA) – A new plant that will process graphite, which is critical for electric vehicle batteries, broke ground in Coosa County Tuesday.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, along with other state and local leaders, held the groundbreaking ceremony for the plant, which is owned by Alabama Graphite Products, LLC, a subsidiary of Westwater Resources, Inc.

The plant is being built in the Lake Martin Regional Industrial Park in Kellyton, near Alexander City. It will process raw graphite into refined, battery-grade graphite, which is a key component in lithium-ion batteries, as well as a conductivity enhancer for all types of batteries, including the common lead-acid batteries in traditional vehicles.

Groundbreaking held for Coosa County graphite processing facility.
Groundbreaking held for Coosa County graphite processing facility.((Source: WSFA 12 News))

Alabama will be home to the nation’s first natural-grade graphite processor, the company’s CEO said when he and Ivey first announced the plant in June. Currently, most graphite is imported from China, prompting the U.S. government to declare it a critical strategic mineral.

“Alabama, which is home to Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Mazda, is among the top four states in the nation in automobile production,” Gov. Ivey said. “This plant will make Alabama an even bigger player in the fast-growing electric vehicle sector. It also creates jobs and will serve as a catalyst for economic development in the region.”

An initial investment of $80 million or more will be spent to build the plant. A second phase of the project will push the total investment to $124 million. It is expected to create around 100 jobs the Tallapoosa and Coosa county areas that pay an average of $21.15 per hour.

The batteries found in an average EV need about 175-200 pounds of graphite. When it becomes fully operational, the plant is expected to produce 7,500 metric tons of refined graphite each year.

In addition to the processing plant, the company plans to continue advanced exploration activities of a graphite deposit in western Coosa County in the Alabama Graphite Belt. Westwater Resources acquired mineral rights to approximately 41,900 acres in 2018 and expects to begin mining operations by the end of 2028.

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