Judge Du has published her decision in the Bartell Ranch LLC v. Ester M. McCullough (BLM) case, in which Lithium Nevada Corporation, four environmental organizations, and the Reno Sparks Indian Colony and Burns Paiute Tribe also participated. She did not revoke the record of decision (RoD), but has asked the BLM to verify that Lithium Nevada Corporation has the valid minerals rights for the 1300 acres of land where the waste rock from the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project will be dumped.
Her full decision can be read here: Thacker Pass Decision (2-6-23).
This court decision doesn’t mean the Thacker Pass mine is sustainable, just, or righteous. Those issues were not heard in court. This decision means only one thing: that federal law is stacked in favor of corporations, against the planet, and against tribes and communities.
This is nothing new. We live in an unsustainable nation with a foundation of corporate power, land theft, and destruction of nature. The legal system makes it essentially impossible for the Federal Government to say no to mining companies — even when local communities, tribes, and regulatory agencies have major concerns.
This is only a temporary defeat. We’re twice as committed now as we were when this fight began. Lithium Nevada, General Motors, and the rest of their partners have long since lost any pretense of moral high ground on sustainability and human rights issues. Only when this is over will they realize how big of a mistake they have made.
Statement from Will Falk, attorney:
The judge issued her decision in the Thacker Pass case yesterday [2/6/2023]. She ruled against us. As we predicted, she ruled against all plaintiffs on all of their arguments except one. She found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not determine whether or not Lithium Nevada possesses valid mineral rights for 1,300 of the 18,000 acres that the mine would cover. This 1,300 acres is land Lithium Nevada wants to bury under a waste rock pile. So, the judge is allowing the rest of the mine to proceed while BLM determines whether Lithium Nevada possesses those valid mineral rights for the land where the waste rock pile would be. I don’t anticipate that BLM will find this determination to be very difficult and I expect them to make that determination relatively quickly.
It’s really important that everyone remember that law is a limited tactic – especially in public lands mining cases where the law presumes corporations have a right to mine. No lawsuit in public lands mining cases can achieve permanent protection for Thacker Pass. Lawsuits can delay construction and cause investors to think about pulling their money out, but it is likely that there will come a time when there simply is no legal tactic left for us to use to fight the Thacker Pass lithium mine.
There is no reason to despair. It’s ok to be sad. It’s better to be angry. It’s best to turn your emotions into fuel to continue to act to defend Thacker Pass/sacred Peehee mu’huh. This fight is far from over.
If we’re going to truly protect Thacker Pass, we’re going to have to do more than file lawsuits and litigate in court. We cannot rely on the government or a judge to protect Thacker Pass. We’ll have to do it ourselves.