Department of Energy commits to a $2.26 billion loan to Lithium America’s Thacker Pass project

March 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programs Office (LPO) announced a conditional commitment to Lithium Americas Corp’s subsidiary, Lithium Nevada Corp., for a $2.26 billion loan to help finance the construction of a lithium carbonate processing plant at Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, NV. The project is located next to a mine site that contains the largest-proven lithium reserves in North America. Once fully operational, the facility is expected to produce approximately 40 kt/a (44,000 stpy) of battery-grade lithium carbonate for use in lithium-ion batteries.

“Our team has been focused on refining the development plan and de-risking construction execution of Phase 1 for Thacker Pass,” said Jonathan Evans, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lithium Americas said in a construction plan update. “We have de-risked execution by advancing detailed engineering and project planning. To date, we have completed all the early-works and infrastructure required for major construction, including excavating the processing plant areas. We anticipate issuing FNTP and commencing major construction shortly following the closing of the DOE Loan.”

The project is supported in part by an equity investment into Lithium America’s from General Motors, who is expected to be a long-term primary lithium carbonate buyer for the project. Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass could support the production of batteries for up to 800,000 electric vehicles (EVs) annually, avoiding the consumption of 317 million gallons of gasoline per year. If finalized, the project is expected to create approximately 1,800 jobs during construction and 360 jobs in operations.

Demand for lithium carbonate is expected to rise exponentially with EV adoption. Developing this project will strengthen domestic battery supply chains and reduce reliance on unreliable foreign sources. The project’s output will qualify for the Inflation Reduction Act’s Made in America benefits and sourcing requirements, making it an attractive source of lithium carbonate for domestic automakers.

“In advancing Thacker Pass to production, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the next chapter of global electrification in a way that both strengthens our national security of critical materials and ensures that the economic benefits are directed toward American workers, companies and communities,” said Evans.

The project proponent has also been working with the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe to ensure that the project is benefiting Tribal members and local communities. Lithium Americas and the Tribe entered into a binding Community Benefits Agreement in 2022 that provides for infrastructure improvements at Fort McDermitt, additional job training and employment opportunities for Tribal members, and support for cultural education and preservation.

LPO issuance of the loan is contingent on LPO’s review of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The project is located on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has already prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issued a Record of Decision for the project. If LPO decides to proceed with the financing, it will support the construction and start-up of the lithium carbonate processing facilities and associated infrastructure, which fall under the previous BLM Final EIS. LPO adopted the BLM EIS on Sept. 29, 2023. LPO will continue to work on the NEPA process and other regulatory requirements prior to financial close.

If finalized, the loan would be offered through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program, which provides loans to support U.S. manufacturing of advanced technology vehicles, qualifying components, and materials that improve fuel economy. With nine recent conditional commitments and two closed loans announced for ATVM projects since 2022, LPO is helping to support, onshore, or re-shore supply chains projects to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious EV goals.

For all projects, DOE performs rigorous due diligence related to all aspects of a potential deal, including a borrower or sponsor's potential nexus with foreign governments.

While this conditional commitment indicates the Department’s intent to finance the project, the company must satisfy certain technical, legal, environmental, and financial conditions before the Department enters into definitive financing documents and funds the loan.



Related article search: