A county in North Carolina on Tuesday added several mining-related standards to its zoning regulations, taking measures that directly affect a Piedmont Lithium Inc mine project that could potentially supply the ultralight battery ore to Tesla Inc.
The Gaston County Council of Commissioners unanimously approved standards for lighting, noise reduction, blasting and other mining-related activities. The new rules came after commissioners imposed a 60-day mining moratorium in August. Representatives from Piedmont were not immediately available for comment.
The county had no mining regulations previously, a fact that worried elected officials who feared Piedmont could operate without any local oversight if it ultimately received regulatory approval from the state.
The project, which has divided the county of roughly 220,000, highlights wider tension in the United States as resistance to living near a mine collides with the potential of electric vehicles to mitigate climate change.
Although it spent years buying land, hiring investment bankers and securing a supply deal with Tesla, Piedmont only contacted local authorities in July and asked for a public mining permit only last month.
Piedmont has already spent $ 58 million on the project, which would produce about 30,000 tonnes of lithium per year, enough to make about 3 million electric vehicles. Commissioners have now threatened to deny a necessary zoning exemption when Piedmont requests it. The deal with Tesla was postponed indefinitely last month.
Zoning changes approved on Tuesday will require mining companies to build a 12-foot (3.7-meter) high barrier to dampen noise. Lights used by a mining project will not be allowed to shine on a neighbor’s property. The miners will also be required to erect a 7-foot-high chain link fence topped with barbed wire.
The new laws would also only allow rock blasting during the day. Violations of the blasting rules would give the county a reason to revoke a mining license. “We changed what we thought we needed to change in order to strengthen security around a mine,” Chad Brown, a commissioner, told Reuters.
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