Support land defenders being sued by a mining company.

We’ve been sued for defending sacred land

In May 2023, Lithium Nevada Corporation filed a lawsuit against this organization, Protect Thacker Pass, and seven individuals for opposing the Thacker Pass lithium mine following a month of non-violent protests on the site of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in northern Nevada.

Thacker Pass is known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, and is a sacred site to regional Native American tribes. It’s habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife.

The lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down free speech and protest.

The suit aims to ban us from the area and force us to pay monetary damages which could total millions of dollars.

How you can help

The best way you can help us fight this lawsuit is to donate to our legal defense.

You can also help by raising awareness with the general public. Write op-eds about the destruction of Peehee Mu’huh / Thacker Pass, about what the land and wild beings who live there mean to you, and about why you oppose mining.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Protect Thacker Pass, contact us:

You can begin your own campaign to raise awareness about the mining boom for “critical materials” to supply the so-called “green transition”, and visit the McDermitt Caldera to see the land currently being destroyed by Lithium Nevada Corporation, and the land about to be destroyed throughout the caldera by other mining companies who have claims in the area.

Wherever you live, the land deserves to be protected. Take action!

What’s the status?

We are being charged with Civil Conspiracy, Nuisance, Trespass, Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations, Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage.

Another change — Unjust Enrichment — was dismissed in March 2024.

The five remaining claims now move forward into the discovery phase of the ongoing lawsuit. During this phase, both Lithium Nevada Corporation and the defendants will have an opportunity to gather evidence.

We are being tried by District Court Judge Michael Montero, of the Sixth Judicial District serving Humboldt County, Nevada.

In part of his preliminary order in March 2024, Judge Montero called arguments that a Paiute protester has a right to access the September 12, 1865 Thacker Pass massacre site within Lithium Nevada’s mine site to pray for massacred Paiute ancestors “frivolous.”

The ruling states that recognizing traditional native land claims “would unequivocally undermine each and every property owner’s rights” and concludes that “[t]his is a Pandora’s box the Court is unwilling to open.”

What’s at stake?

Thacker Pass, known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, is sacred to regional Native American tribes. Two massacres took place in Thacker Pass (in 1865 and in pre-history), and the land was used until mine construction began for ceremonies, traditional hunting and gathering, and educating young Native people. One of our legal arguments invokes the “unclean hands” doctrine; we assert that Lithium Nevada Corporation has “engaged in serious misconduct including violating the Defendants’ human rights, Defendants’ civil rights, misleading the public about the impacts of lithium mining and how lithium mining contributes to climate change and biodiversity collapse, and conducting the inherently dangerous and ecologically-destructive practice of surface mining at the Thacker Pass mine.” In February 2023, the Bureau of Land Management recognized Thacker Pass as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a “Traditional Cultural District,” or a landscape that’s very important to tribes.

➡️ Read more about sacredness and Lithium America’s involvement in human-rights violations in Argentina.

Thacker Pass is critical wildlife habitat for threatened, endangered, and endemic species. This includes the greater sage-grouse, pronghorn antelope, Lahontan cutthroat trout, golden eagles, Crosby’s buckwheat, and old-growth sagebrush habitat. Earth is currently experiencing one of the most rapid and widespread extinction events in the planet’s 4-billion-year history. One of our legal arguments is a “biodiversity necessity defense.” Our claim is that it was necessary to justify breaking the law to prevent a greater harm. Permitting documents for the Thacker Pass mine show the project will harm or kill pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, mule deer, migratory birds, burrowing owls, bobcats, roughly a dozen bat species, various rare plants, and hundreds of other species. This is the first time the biodiversity necessity defense is being used in the American legal system.

➡️ Read more about wildlife and habitat impacts at Thacker Pass.

The Thacker Pass mine is based on lies and “greenwashing.” Lithium Nevada Corporation is pretending that blowing up a mountain, destroying sacred sites, harming wildlife, releasing 150,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, and burning more than 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel per day is “green.” One of our legal arguments is a “climate necessity defense.” We claim that by attempting to stop a major mine that will produce significant greenhouse gas emissions, the protesters were acting to reduce emissions and stop a bigger harm: climate change. This legal strategy has been used by many fossil fuel protesters around the world for roughly a decade (and has been successful in a few cases), but this is the first time the same argument has been applied to a “green technology” minerals mining project.

➡️ Read more about greenwashing and the lie that this is a green mine.

Who are the defendants?

Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu – Te-Moak Shoshone and Washoe

Bethany Sam – Standing Rock Sioux and Kutzadika’a Paiute Tribes

Dean Barlese – Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe

Max Wilbert – co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass

Will Falk – co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass

Paul Cienfuegos – Founding Director of Community Rights US

Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu

Bethany Sam

Dean Barlese

Max Wilbert

Will Falk

Paul Cienfuegos