Australian mining company Piedmont Lithium has secured the final permit required to begin construction on its proposed Tennessee Lithium project in McMinn County, Tennessee.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued the Conditional Major Non-Title V Construction and Air Permit.

With the Air Permit in place, the company can develop the $800m Tennessee Lithium project with a planned 30,000 metric ton per year (tpy) lithium hydroxide manufacturing plant.

In April this year, Piedmont unveiled the results of a definitive feasibility study (DFS), highlighting positive project economics for Tennessee Lithium.

According to the DFS, the project has a net present value of $2.5bn and an internal rate of return of 32%, driven by a positive impact of the US government’s clean energy policies.

Piedmont Lithium president and chief executive officer Keith Phillips said: “Tennessee Lithium is uniquely positioned in America’s emerging Battery Belt to supply the domestic market with crucial, made-in-America lithium resources.

“Since announcing the selection of the site in McMinn County, Tennessee nearly one year ago, our team has been focused on permitting, engineering, and working with local officials to prepare this project to support the electric vehicle and battery manufacturing supply chain.

“As demand for lithium hydroxide continues to soar in the U.S., this conversion facility will be key in the domestic effort to reduce reliance on foreign nations for lithium processing.”

In October last year, the US Department of Energy (DoE) selected Tennessee Lithium for a $141.7m grant to support the construction of the project.

Piedmont Lithium and its advisors have started discussions with potential strategic partners for the remaining funding required for the development of the project.

The Australian company intends to lease and revamp the local office space, to support the recovery efforts of downtown Etowah, Tennessee.

It has also started workforce development activities with local technical schools to develop key training programs and curricula for certain positions.

Piedmont plans to hire 120 employees, from the second half of this year through 2026, to support construction and prepare for commercial production, when the project becomes operational.