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Tesla lithium refinery project moves to private negotiations in Texas

Tesla is currently working on a lithium refinery project that would be coming to Corpus Christi, Texas, and it sounds like the automaker is in the final stretch of its negotiations with the authorities.

In September, we learned that Tesla has a plan to build a lithium refining facility on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

At the time, we knew very little about the project other than Tesla was planning on moving fast with hope to start building in Q4 2022.

Now it looks like Tesla is in the last stretch of the approval process with local authorities.

On Wednesday, local news KIII TV reported that Nueces County Commissioners unanimously voted to move negotiations between county leaders and Tesla to executive session, which implies in private.

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales commented:

You don’t typically, put your lawyer on camera to give you legal advice that you’re supposed to listen to that helps you formulate your opinion. Because you’re negotiating with the other.

They confirmed that they are negotiating with Tesla on tax abatements for a piece of property near Robstown, Texas, 25 minutes outside of Corpus Christi.

More details about the project were revealed as part of the negotiations, including that Tesla would invest about $365 million in the lithium plant, which would employ about 165 people full-time plus another 250 construction jobs for about two years.

Tesla presented the project as the “development of a battery-grade lithium hydroxide refining facility, the first of its kind in North America, as well as facilities to support other types of battery materials processing, refining, and manufacturing and ancillary manufacturing operations in support of Tesla’s sustainable product line.”

The automaker is also touting its project as having a smaller impact on the environment than other lithium refining:

Tesla will process raw ore material into a usable state for battery production. The process Tesla will use is innovative and designed to consume less hazardous reagents and create usable byproducts compare to the conventional process.

In the application, Tesla made it clear that the final product from this new plant will be battery-grade lithium hydroxide:

The final product, battery-grade lithium hydroxide, will be packaged and shipped by truck and rail to various Tesla battery manufacturing sites supporting the necessary supply chain for large-scale and electric vehicle batteries.

Tesla also included a long list of improvements it plans to bring to the site including: supporting infrastructure and lithium refining equipment, operation buildings, laboratory for R&D (research and development) and quality controls, new access roadways, parking lots, loading docks, logistics facilities, process warehouse and maintenance buildings, utility distribution improvements including underground utility piping, structural foundations, pads, supports, electrical substations, rail spur for use exclusive to this project, cooling towers, fire prevention equipment, safety equipment, storm water management facilities, waste management facilities, and wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously called lithium refining a “license to print money” due to the high margins in the industry.

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