Recently, we got a comment about the Thacker Pass Mine Project:

“I don’t believe that fossil fuels are required to extract these minerals or to process them and make the batteries from them.”

This person clearly has not investigated the project at all. A brief look at the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) tells you all you need to know about the fossil fuels required by this mine, and the greenhouse gas emissions generated by it.

Diesel use at Thacker Pass

As you can see in the first image, 26,000 gallons of diesel will be used at the mine and refinery daily. That’s 9,490,000 gallons of diesel per year.

Molten sulfur trucked to Thacker Pass

The mine project will refine sulfuric acid on site, which requires trucking molten sulfur from Winnemucca to the mine site. The molten sulfur will come from oil refineries. 100+ truck loads of molten sulfur per day will be driven to the site in diesel trucks. Large diesel trucks get 7mpg so each one way trip is 6.2 gallons of diesel, so that’s 1,257 gallons of diesel per day, or another 458,805 gallons of diesel per year for the trucks.

The third image shows the CO2 (and other emissions) from the mine project (not including the trucks bringing in the molten sulfur). CO2e is CO2 and other greenhouse gases, like methane. 132,678 tons per year of CO2e emissions. Then add in 5,148 tons per year of CO2 from the diesel trucks bringing in the molten sulfur, for a grand total of 137,825 tons CO2e emissions per year.

Note that in the EIS, NOx is not included in the CO2e emissions, and NOx has 298x the warming power of CO2. So the 668 tons of NOx is like having another 199,064 tons of CO2 emitted every year. If we add that to the CO2e for the mine that would bring that total to 336,889 tons of CO2e per year.

Claiming that it’s possible to make EV batteries without fossil fuels (and thus, without greenhouse gas emissions) is just flat out wrong. These projected emissions from the lithium mine are just for the lithium; as we know lithium-ion EV batteries also require graphite, nickel, and other metals, each of which also require mining and refining, also requiring fossil fuels and generating greenhouse gas emissions.

EVs will not end our use of fossil fuels. They will simply shift from one use of fossil fuels to another.


Images are from the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project Environmental Impact Statement.