Lithium Americas delays work at Nevada mine after environmentalist lawsuit, Auto News, ET Auto
By Ernest Scheyder
Lithium Americas Corp has delayed plans to excavate its Thacker Pass lithium mine site in Nevada, court documents show, while a federal judge examines whether the former Trump administration erred in approving the project which, opponents said could endanger the sage grouse and other wildlife.
The delay is the latest setback for the U.S. critical minerals industry as environmentalists pressure courts and regulators to block mining projects from a host of companies, including ioneer Ltd, Antofagasta Plc, Rio Tinto and others, even if these mines produce metals essential to the fight against climate change. .
Thacker Pass, if completed, would be the largest lithium mine in the United States, producing 30,000 tonnes of lithium per year, enough to manufacture more than 475,000 electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
The court case, however, is likely to push back the company’s development schedule and an unfavorable ruling could put it in serious jeopardy.
Opponents of the mine have asked a federal judge to rule by next month whether Vancouver-based Lithium Americas could dig at the site in northern Nevada.
The company intended to start digging at the site on June 23, several months earlier than originally planned.
Opponents have sought a temporary injunction to block the excavation while the court examines the larger case, which focuses on whether the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) erred in approving the project in January less than a week before the departure of US President Donald Trump.
Thacker Pass has been in development for over a decade.
Lithium Americas agreed this week to suspend excavations until the end of July, according to the documents.
Environmentalists filed a lawsuit after the BLM decision, arguing in part that regulators were not following federal laws designed to protect the sage grouse. The company and BLM disagree, according to the documents.
“These protections against sage grouse are the law of the land and we believe we have a strong case with our injunction motion,” Roger Flynn, a lawyer representing conservation groups, told Reuters.
Chief Justice Miranda Du of the Reno Federal Court, who is overseeing the case, has in the past ruled in favor of preserving sage grouse habitats.
If Du grants the injunction, Lithium Americas would not be able to develop the site while it examines the larger question of whether the Trump administration erred in approving the mine. A decision on this is expected later this year or in 2022.
In a statement, Lithium Americas said it was “confident that the comprehensive and approved BLM environmental impact statement will stand up to judicial scrutiny.”
Lithium Americas told the court that blocking the mine would hurt national security and hamper President Joe Biden’s plan to wean the US economy off fossil fuels.
Reuters reported last month that Biden planned to search overseas for most metal supplies for electric vehicles, as part of a strategy designed to appease environmentalists.
Lithium Americas has an unlikely ally in Glenn Miller, who founded the environmental group Great Basin Resource Watch, which is one of the environmental groups suing to block the mine.
Miller said he disagreed with the group’s opposition to the project and resigned from his board earlier this week.
“Everyone is deeply concerned about climate change. It’s a question of values, and I agree with the need for lithium,” said Miller, a retired professor at the University of Nevada. “It is one of the least impactful mining plans I have ever seen.”