A federal judge in the state of Nevada ordered the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reconsider some stipulations in the permit issues to Lithium Americas Corporation’s lithium mining initiative within the state.
The mixed ruling essentially allowed Lithium Americas to begin construction at its site in Thacker Pass, but rejected any claims that the initiative would lead to environmental damage or harm to endemic wildlife.
Judge Miranda Du, head of the federal court in Reno, asked the BLM to look into whether or not Lithium Americas has the right to dump waste rock within the area which is south of Nevada’s border with the neighboring state of Oregon. However, Du did not vacate the original 2021 decision that approved the development of the mine.
Environmentalists concerned with the ecological impact of the development are in the process of considering an appeal against the said ruling.
In Du’s 49-page ruling, the BLM needed to determine if the area where Lithium Americas plans to put a waste rock, a normal byproduct from mining, actually contains lithium. The area in question involves around 1,300 acres of the Thacker Pass site.
Du’s order resulted from testimony from federal officials back in January wherein they believed the entire site contains lithium.
At the same time, Du rejected claims from Native American tribes within the area that none of them were properly consulted by the project principals as to its feasibility, as well as any impact it could have on cultural and historical sites within the area.
Will Falk, legal counsel for the Reno Sparks Indian Colony resident in the area, stated that the tribe has yet to decide whether or not to appeal. However, Falk stated that the tribe would continue to push back against the project to protect local heritage sites and the Native American way of life.
Lithium Americas met with BLM officials on Tuesday, February 7th, to discuss the parameters of the review which should not take longer than six months.
According to company chief executive officer Jon Evans, this discussion offers a quick fix to the issue as there is evidence of lithium mineralization throughout the project area.
It is possible that site preparation will begin immediately. Likewise, the bulk of construction is slated to begin in the summer of this year and will go on for around three years.
When completed, Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass mine will be the largest source of EV battery-grade lithium in North America, thus becoming an integral part of the drive to wean the US off lithium imported from overseas. General Motors is a key partner for the initiative and recently signed a $630 million deal for its development.