For Immediate Release
Contact: Will Falk: (319) 830-6086 Max Wilbert: (206) 948-7790
Activists Occupy Site of Proposed Mine That Would Yield 25% of World’s Lithium Supply, a Key Ingredient in Electric Car Batteries
Lithium is the miracle element powering your smartphone and under the hood of every electric car. But will batteries save the planet or cause more harm? The controversy is heating up in Nevada.
RENO, Nevada — Activists aiming to stop Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass open-pit lithium mine – what would be the United States’ largest lithium mine – launched a permanent protest encampment hours after the Bureau of Land Management gave final approval to the mine on January 15. The Thacker Pass project, located in northwestern Nevada, would provide 25% of the world’s lithium, a key ingredient for electric car batteries.
Despite winter conditions at Thacker Pass, protestors have erected tents, a wood stove, and protest signs. Lawyer Will Falk, who is on site, says they mean to stay for as long as it takes to protect this old-growth sagebrush mountainside.
“Environmentalists might be confused about why we want to interfere with the production of electric car batteries,” says Falk. “But, it’s wrong to destroy a mountain for any reason – whether the reason is fossil fuels or lithium.”
Max Wilbert, another organizer of the protest and author of Bright Green Lies, a book analyzing the environmental harms of renewable energy projects, says: “To protect what’s left of the natural world, we must leave minerals in the ground – not just oil and gas – and learn to live within ecological constraints as respectful members of natural communities. Humans must learn to live with less. Or, we will not live at all.”
Activists will remain in place and block all construction, mining, and road-building activities. They demand:
1. The establishment of a protected area at Thacker Pass preserved for the enjoyment of future generations, for wildlife, and for water quality;
2. Lithium Americas’ immediate abandonment of the Thacker Pass project; and
3. A sincere apology from Lithium Americas Corporation for claiming that the project is “green.”
The Thacker Pass mine proposal, located roughly 130 miles northeast of Reno, is one of a handful of large mining and energy projects fast-tracked by the outgoing Trump administration in what a December article in the New York Times called an “intense push” to “find ways to increase domestic energy and mining production.”
Though Lithium Americas claims it strives “to build a business where the well-being of the local community is essential to its success,” this mine has faced objections from local residents, tribal members, ranchers, and environmental groups, who are concerned about project impacts on wildlife and rural quality of life.
Impacts on the local human community include increases in heavy truck traffic, noise and light pollution, air quality issues, and reductions in the water table. Meanwhile, project documents detail potential harm to many species.
- The threatened Greater sage grouse, whose populations have been reduced by between 97% and 99% from historic levels, and for whom the Thacker Pass area represents the best remaining habitat in Nevada. Thacker Pass is located in the Lone Willow population management unit, which is home to between 5 and 8% of the entire global population. This project would sever a key connectivity corridor between portions of the habitat;
- Lahontan cutthroat trout, a federally “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act which exists in only a small fraction of its historic range, including the Quinn River basin downstream of Thacker Pass;
- Pronghorn antelope, whose migration routes would be severed by the mine; and
- A critically imperiled endemic snail species known as the Kings River pyrg that is known to reside in only 13 isolated springs. According to one group of scientists, “the Thacker Pass Project area might contain the entire known population of Kings River pyrg,” thereby putting the species at risk of extinction.
- Other species who will be harmed by the project include Burrowing owls, Golden eagles, several bat species, native bees and other pollinators, Crosby’s Buckwheat, and rare old-growth big sagebrush.
Lithium Americas plans to build large tailing ponds for toxic waste, drill new wells, build a sulfuric acid processing plant, import more than 170 semi-loads of sulfur (a byproduct from oil refineries) per day, pump 850 million gallons of water annually, and dig an open pit of more than 2 square miles into the Thacker Pass mountainside. Despite Lithium America claims that this will be a “carbon neutral” mine, the project will burn some 26,000 gallons of diesel fuel per day.
For more information, visit www.ProtectThackerPass.org.