Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Congressman Mike Rogers, and other state and local gov’t officials and business leaders joined Westwater Resources, Inc. and its subsidiary Alabama Graphite Products, LLC (collectively the “Company”) in breaking ground for the construction of the Company’s graphite processing plant in Kellyton, just outside Alexander City, Alabama.
The $202 million plant, which is being built in the Lake Martin Regional Industrial Park just off U.S. 280 in Coosa County, will process raw graphite into refined, battery-grade graphite for use in batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs), electronics and many other products.
What are the economic benefits of the project?
Once completed, Phase I of the facility is expected to employ at least 100 people at an estimated average hourly wage in excess of $21 per hour and when fully operational is expected to produce 7,500 metric tons of refined graphite each year.
“The construction of this plant is the result of a lot of work, cooperation, planning and vision by numerous people over a number of years,” said Chad Potter, President and Chief Executive Officer of Westwater Resources and Alabama Graphite Products.
“I want to thank our team, which envisioned and laid the foundation for what is the first graphite plant of its kind anywhere as well as our partners who made this day possible.”
Refined graphite is used as the anode in lithium-ion batteries found in EVs and other products, and a conductivity enhancer for all types of batteries like the common lead-acid batteries in vehicles. The batteries found in an average EV need about 175-200 pounds of graphite.
There are currently no producers of natural-grade graphite in the U.S. for these types of products. The refined graphite used in lithium-ion and other batteries is imported from China. As a result, the U.S. government has declared graphite a critical strategic mineral.
What are the gov’t statesmen thoughts on the project?
Gov. Ivey joined numerous state and local gov’t officials and business leaders who took part in the groundbreaking celebration at the Kellyton site. She said the plant will put Alabama at the top echelon in the production of an essential material for EVs and other batteries.
“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 EV sector. It also creates jobs and will serve as a catalyst for economic development, which my administration has worked tirelessly over the years to bring to the state. As this new manufacturing facility demonstrates, the fruits of that labor are paying dividends for the people of Alabama.”
Congressman Rogers praised Alabama Graphite Products for the jobs and development it is bringing to his district. “Having the first graphite processing of its kind in Coosa County is a real honor and I believe an indication of what’s to come. This project will spur more economic development in the region and more jobs for the people here,” Congressman Rogers said.
What is Westwater Resources’ stand on sustainability?
The plant is being built by Alabama Graphite Products, LLC, a subsidiary of Westwater Resources. Westwater Resources is a Colorado-based company focused on developing battery-ready natural graphite materials for advanced batteries and is committed to exploring and developing materials for clean, sustainable energy production.
The Kellyton plant will use a proprietary process to purify the feedstock and refine it into battery grade graphite. This process is safer and more environmentally friendly and sustainable than the hydrofluoric acid-based process commonly used in China and elsewhere, which requires more water and produces more environment-damaging byproducts.
“Since our announcement in June of last year that we will build our processing plant in Alabama, we have made big investments in preparation for the operation. We have purchased and renovated two existing buildings adjacent to the plant site, one for warehousing and logistical uses, other for laboratory and administrative offices,” Potter said
“As our investment and our commitment to invest even more indicate, we are committed to Alabama and this community, and we look forward to being here for many years to come.”
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 rights to about 41,900 acres in 2018 and will begin mining operations by the end of 2028. Until then, the Kellyton plant will import feed graphite acquired from high-quality sources. There is currently no commercial-level graphite mining in the U.S.
Who else attended the ground breaking event?
Mr. Potter thanked the many state and local officials, agencies, industrial recruiters, associations and businesses that helped make the project a reality. “The cooperation and assistance we have received – from tax incentives to utilities to workforce development – has been incredible. We would not be here today without their support,” he said.
In addition to Gov. Ivey and Congressman Rogers, other gov’t officials at the groundbreaking included Alabama Commerce Sec. Greg Canfield, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell, State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, State officials Ben Robbins and Ed Oliver, Coosa County Commissioners and Alexander City officials.
Also in attendance for the event were representatives from the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance, the Lake Martin Area Industrial Development Authority, the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, the Alabama Mining Association, the Energy Institute of Alabama, Alabama Power Company, and project contractors: Fite Building Company, B.L. Harbert International, Asimpa, Samuel Engineering and Bailey-Harris Construction Company.
The Kellyton processing plant is expected to begin operation by the end of the second quarter of 2023. For more information, go online to www.