By Claire Carlson for Native News Online

May 13, 2021

Situated between the high peaks and low valley floors of northern Nevada is Thacker Pass, an expanse of land that is bordered from the north and south by the Montana and Double H mountain ranges. The pass is in traditional Paiute and Shoshone land and holds great ecological and cultural significance, yet a new proposal to build an open-pit lithium mine threatens to disturb the area. 

Located atop an extinct supervolcano called the McDermitt Caldera, Thacker Pass sits on one of the largest lithium deposits in the United States. According to the company Lithium Nevada, who will be running the project, the operation has a lifespan of at least 46 years. The lithium would be used in renewable energy technology like batteries for electric cars. 

The process for approving the mine has been sped up in the past year due in part to former President Trump’s passage of Executive Order 13927. This order expedited the environmental impact statements (EIS) of numerous energy and natural resource projects across the country as coronavirus cases soared throughout the United States. 

“On average, the environmental review process for a project like this takes 3.5 years,” said Will Falk, an activist who has been involved in protesting the Thacker Pass development. “The process at Thacker Pass has taken just one.”

The EIS for Thacker Pass was approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in December 2020. On Jan. 15, 2021, just a few days after President Biden’s inauguration, Lithium Nevada’s first federal permits were issued.

“Trump fast-tracked the mine and Biden is encouraging this because lithium is viewed as a solution for a so-called greener future,” said Daranda Hinkey, a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, during a discussion panel organized by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. 

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