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UPDATE 1-Piedmont Lithium delays timeline to supply Tesla

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(Adds details on contract delay)

By Ernest Scheyder

Aug 2 (Reuters) - Piedmont Lithium Inc said on Monday it will delay first shipments of lithium chemicals to electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc and that it does not have a definitive date for when deliveries could begin.

The decision was mutual, Belmont, North Carolina-based Piedmont said. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The initial contract, signed last September, called for Piedmont to begin supplying Tesla sometime between July 2022 and July 2023 from a North Carolina lithium mine and processing facilities under development.

Reuters reported last month https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/push-supply-tesla-piedmont-lithium-irks-north-carolina-neighbors-2021-07-20 that North Carolina officials have voiced concerns about Piedmont's project - which would be one of the largest U.S. lithium mines - and may now block or delay it. The company plans to apply for a state mining permit this month.

Tesla, meanwhile, is building a plant in Texas that will convert Piedmont's spodumene concentrate into lithium hydroxide, a key building block for EV batteries. The automaker applied for Texas permits for its facility in April, according to state records, though it is unclear when that facility will be operational.

Piedmont said it is trying to sync its project development schedule with that of Tesla.

"We have built in some degree of flexibility based upon the needs of our customers and their timelines, and that consideration is mutually agreed upon," Piedmont spokesperson Brian Risinger said.

Piedmont is looking for investors to help fund the $840 million project. The company said on Monday it will apply next month for a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ceraweek-usa-granholm-idUKKBN2AV1YS Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program.

A class action lawsuit was filed last month against the company alleging that Piedmont's executives mislead investors about its project development timeline. Piedmont said on Monday it believes the suit "to be entirely without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Will Dunham)

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