UPDATE 3-Albemarle to build $1.3 bln lithium plant in South Carolina

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March 22 (Reuters) -

Albemarle Corp said on Wednesday it had chosen Chester County, South Carolina, as the location for a $1.3 billion lithium processing plant it hopes will cement its status as a cornerstone of the rapidly growing U.S. electric vehicle industry.

The facility, which was first

announced last year

without a specific location, will double the company's lithium processing capacity and thus its ability to supply key customers - including Tesla Inc - who are hungry for more North American supplies of the battery metal.

Already the

world's largest

lithium producer with major facilities in Chile, China and Australia, Albemarle has moved aggressively to expand in the United States, which it sees as its next major area of growth thanks to tax credits and other incentives offered by the U.S.

Inflation Reduction Act


The South Carolina plant will be able to process 50,000 tonnes of lithium each year from rock Albemarle plans to mine in North Carolina as well as from


batteries. That's roughly enough of the white metal to make 2.4 EVs annually.

"This facility will help increase the production of U.S.-based lithium resources to fuel the clean energy revolution while bringing us closer to our customers as the supply chain is built out in North America," Albemarle Chief Executive Kent Masters said in a statement.

Construction of the 800-acre project is expected to begin late next year, though the company did not provide a timeline for when the site will open. The plant should employ 300 workers with an average annual pay of $93,000.

The company received a lithium processing


last year from the White House. Despite the recent softening in lithium prices, Albemarle has said it expects


to continue to rise.

Shares of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company fell 1.6% to $219.33 in afternoon trading. (Reporting by Sourasis Bose and Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Vinay Dwivedi and Diane Craft)