Tesla lithium refinery project moves to private negotiations in Texas

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

In September, we learned that Tesla was planning to build a lithium refining facility on the Texas Gulf Coast.

At this point, we knew very little about the project other than that Tesla was planning to move ahead quickly, hoping to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Now it looks like Tesla is in the final leg of the approval process with local authorities.

On Wednesday, local news KIII TV reported that Nueces County Commissioners voted unanimously to move negotiations between the county leaders and Tesla to an executive session, meaning a private session.

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales commented:

“You don’t typically put your lawyer in front of the camera to give you legal advice that you should listen to and that will help you form your opinion. Because you negotiate with the other person.”

They confirmed they are negotiating with Tesla for tax breaks on a 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 factory, which would employ about 165 full-time employees plus an additional 250 construction jobs for about two years.

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

The automaker also touts that its project has a lower environmental impact than other lithium refineries:

Tesla will process raw ore material into a usable state for battery production. The process that Tesla will use is innovative and designed to consume less hazardous reagents and generate useable by-products compared to the traditional process.

In the bid, Tesla made it clear that the end product from this new facility will be battery-grade lithium hydroxide:

The end product, battery-grade lithium hydroxide, is packaged and shipped by truck and rail to various Tesla battery manufacturing sites to support the necessary supply chain for bulk and electric vehicle batteries.

Tesla also added a long list of improvements to be made at the site, including: supporting lithium refining infrastructure and equipment, operations buildings, R&D (research and development) and quality control laboratory, new access roads, parking lots, loading docks, logistics facilities, Process storage and maintenance buildings, utility distribution improvements including underground utilities, structural foundations, pads, supports, electrical substations, rail spur for exclusive use on this project, cooling towers, fire protection equipment, safety equipment, stormwater management facilities, waste disposal facilities and wastewater treatment infrastructure.

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

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