Lies Lithium Nevada Tells
“Thacker Pass Has No Importance to Native American Religion.”
According to a petition brought by Fort McDermitt tribal members to the tribal council, tribal members have sacred connections with the area. The petition also states the mine will destroy sacred burial grounds; will eliminate traditional ceremonial and spiritual medicine including toza; will destroy ceremonial roots, berries, and plants; and will disturb 12 golden eagle nests, deer, rabbits, sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat, and essential ceremony sage brush that tribal members need for survival.
Fort McDermitt elders have explained that Thacker Pass’ Paiute name is Pee-hee-mm-huh which means “rotten moon.” Pee-hee-mm-huh was named this because a Paiute community that once lived in a moon-shaped basin in the area was massacred. When Paiute hunters returned, they found the victims’ intestines strung out across the sage brush. Fort McDermitt elders have also explained that when American soldiers came to round up local Paiutes to force them on to reservations, the Paiutes hid in the caves surrounding Thacker Pass.
On Monday, March 29, 2021, after tribal members filed the petition describing how the mine would harm traditional spiritual practices, the Fort McDermitt tribal council voted unanimously to end the Project Engagement Agreement previously signed by former tribal chairman Tildon Smart. The tribal council also resolved to file a lawsuit against the Thacker Pass project.
“This Mine Won’t Pollute Groundwater.”
It is expected that the mine will pollute groundwater. Lithium Nevada’s own tests found that aluminum, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluoride, iron, lead, magnesium, mercury, nickel, sulfate, thallium, TDS, and zinc were leached at concentrations above Nevada Resource Values. (FEIS Appendix B, LNC Mine Plan, pg. 41).
LNC also found that for their clay tailings sample uranium, gross alpha and radium 226/radium 228 exceed Nevada Resource Values. (FEIS Appendix B, LNC Mine Plan, pg. 41).
Federal law requires projects to comply with applicable state water quality standards. The Final Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Lithium Nevada and approved by BLM clearly states that levels of antimony, a harmful pollutant, will be released into the groundwater at levels that will exceed state water quality standards.” (Final Environmental Impact Statement, pg. R-121).
The Environmental Protection Agency – one of the federal agencies Lithium Nevada Chairman Jonathan Evans claims his corporation aims to have a thorough process working with – has strongly criticized the way Lithium Nevada’s final Environmental Impact Statement failed to adequately analyze water pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency stated about the Thacker Pass mine’s potential to contaminate groundwater: “…the plans are not developed with an adequate level of detail to assess whether or how groundwater quality downgradient from the pit would be effectively mitigated.” (EPA’s Detailed Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Thacker Pass Project, Humboldt County, Nevada, January 4, 2020, pg. 1)
The Environmental Protection Agency also said that Lithium Nevada’s statements “that groundwater quality management plans would ‘effectively mitigate impacts to groundwater quality downgradient from the pit’ are not adequately supported.”
EPA has stated: “As explained in the Final EIS, adverse effects to groundwater quality are expected from all action alternatives. Without mitigation, a plume of groundwater exceeding the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Profile I Reference Values for antimony is expected to flow uncontrolled from the backfilled pit.”
“Lithium Nevada is Collaborating With Locals.”
In his declaration in federal court, Evans also stated that Lithium Nevada has been collaborating with local stakeholders. In reality, Lithium Nevada has been dishonest with locals.
Local rancher Edward Bartell is responsible for one of the lawsuits challenging the mine. While trying to convince the Bureau of Land Management to take local concerns seriously, he explained how, in late 2019, he asked Lithium Nevada’s CEO Alexi Zawadzki for the water studies Lithium Nevada had done of the area. Zawadzki responded, in writing, that the Thacker Pass mine would only use approximately 2,500 acre-feet of well water per year. However, when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was published, just a few months later, Lithium Nevada revealed that while the mine would actually use 2,600 acre-feet of water for the first 4 years of the mine’s operations, it would use 5,200 acre-feet of water for the next 37 years.
In this letter, Bartell accused Lithium Nevada of using “BLM’s scoping process to misinform the public.” According to Bartell, at community scoping meetings in February, 2020, Lithium Nevada made presentations that only included the same 2,500 acre-feet of water use in the first phase of the project and did not include the 5,200 acre-feet Lithium Nevada expects to use in the second phase of the project.
Bartell also stated that a presentation including the same misrepresentation was made by Lithium Nevada at the Humboldt County Commissioners meeting on July 26, 2020 and that two articles in the Sierra Nevada Ally and the Elko Daily Free Press quoted Lithium Nevada still using the 2,500 or 2,600 acre foot number.
To be clear, according to Bartell, Lithium Nevada told folks the mine would only use half the amount of water that Lithium Nevada actually expected to use.
Bartell also alleges that Lithium Nevada employees or contractors trespassed on his property, tampered with his wells, and underestimated the flow rates on several creeks and springs on or near the project site in what may be a deliberate attempt to manipulate scientific data to support their mining plan.
“There Will Only Be 72 Semi-Trucks Driving Through the Area Per Day.”
At the April 5, 2021 community meeting in McDermitt, company spokesperson Tim Crowley stated that 72 trucks per day will run between Winnemucca and the mine at Thacker Pass. Crowley appears to be lying or misleading the public.
According to the FEIS, for the first four years, between 60 to 100 trucks will make one-way trips from Winnemucca, through Orovada, to the Thacker Pass project site. These trucks would run 24-hours a day (FEIS, pg. 2-14). That is 120-200 trucks passing per day, when you count round trip.
For the next 37 years, the truck traffic would increase to between 120-200 one-way trips from Winnemucca, through Orovada, to the Thacker Pass project site. That’s 240-400 semi trucks passing per day, roughly one every 4 minutes (FEIS, pg. 2-14).
If the mine expands into the exploration zone (see next point), these numbers may rise further.
“This Mine Is Small.”
Lithium Nevada has repeatedly claimed this mine will have a “small” footprint of 5,694.8 acres. However, at the April 5, 2021 community meeting in McDermitt, company spokesperson Tim Crowley stated that they are “very confident that there will be more development even beyond that 46 years” which the project has been permitted for. The company plans to expand their mining operation into their “exploration zones” on the south and east sides of Thacker Pass. This would expand the project size to 17,933 acres.
Lithium Nevada has also staked mining claims in the Montana Mountains, and market pressures make it likely that they, or another mining company, will expand lithium mining into the highlands of the Montana Mountains in coming years. Another mining company (Jindalee) is already conducting test drilling for lithium west of McDermitt. Market demands may threaten most of the McDermitt Caldera with lithium mining in coming years.
“This is a Very Environmentally Responsible Mine.”
A Lithium Nevada publicity video states that “We’ve designed a very environmentally responsible mine.” In truth, the Thacker Pass mine threatens important habitat for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, sage-grouse, and other species, and threatens access to areas frequented by local hunters.
The mine would disturb at least one golden eagle breeding pair. (FEIS, 4-56). There are also 7 golden eagle nests within 1mile of the proposed project boundary, and 12 golden eagle nests within 2 miles of the project boundary (FEIS, 4-57).
The mine would also disturb approximately 852 acres of year-round mule deer habitat. (FEIS, pg. 4-38). It would directly affect 427 acres of pronghorn summer range and 4,960 acres of winter range over the life of the mine. (FEIS, pg. 4-38). Many special-status species and their habitat including bighorn sheep, pygmy rabbit, western burrowing owl, greater sage grouse, spotted bats, red bats, little brown bats, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and desert horned lizard would be harmed by the project. (FEIS, pg. 4-40 to 4-48).