US judge orders fresh review for Thacker Pass lithium project

February 7, 2023

Chief Judge Miranda Du of the federal court in Reno, NV, ordered the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to determine whether Lithium Americas has the right to dump waste rock at the site of its proposed Thacker Pass Mine.

The mine would be North America’s largest source of lithium for electric vehicle batteries. General Motors Co signed a $650 million deal to help develop the project, an agreement that hinges in part on a positive outcome in the long-running court case.

“We are pleased that the Federal Court has recognized the BLM’s decision to issue the Federal Permit, reflecting our considerable efforts to ensure Thacker Pass is developed responsibly and for the benefit of all stakeholders,” said Jonathan Evans, President and CEO, Lithium Americas. “The favorable ruling leaves in place the final regulatory approval needed in moving Thacker Pass into construction.”

The Federal Court rejected arguments that the project will cause unnecessary and undue degradation to the local sage grouse population and habitat, groundwater aquifers and air quality; that the BLM failed to adequately assess the project’s impacts on air quality, wildlife and groundwater; that the BLM failed to adequately consider the project’s impacts to culturally or religiously significant areas; and that BLM acted unreasonably or in bad faith in identifying tribes for consultation before approving the Project.

In a 49-page ruling, Judge Du did not vacate a 2021 decision by former President Donald Trump to approve the mine. The ruling can be appealed, according to a report by Reuters.

While much of the mining that takes place in the western United States is ruled by the 1872 Mining Law a court ruled last year that the law does not necessarily give miners the right to store waste rock or erect buildings on federal land not containing valuable minerals.

Du ordered the BLM to determine whether roughly 1,300 acres at the Thacker Pass site where Lithium Americas hopes to store waste rock contains lithium. Du did not issue a time limit for the new review. Federal officials had told the court last month that they did not believe fresh studies were warranted.

Du also rejected claims from the Reno Sparks Indian Colony and other Native American tribes that they were not properly consulted about the project and its potential effects on cultural and historical sites.

The favorable ruling by the federal court leaves in place the final regulatory approval needed in moving Thacker Pass into construction, Jonathan Evans, chief executive officer of Lithium Americas, said in a statement.

The company said it intends to work closely with the BLM to complete the required follow-up.

Photo credit: Lithium Americas



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