June 2, 2021
Media Inquiries: Contact Max Wilbert, Protect Thacker Pass
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Opponents of Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Outline Investor Risks
OROVADA, NV — Opponents of the planned Thacker Pass lithium mine released an open letter to the CEO of Lithium Americas and investors today.
The letter slams Lithium Americas for violating indigenous rights and planning to bulldoze sacred sites, and notes that projects facing this much opposition may be a risky investment.
“[R]esearch indicates that investors care about human rights concerns and consultation with indigenous communities,” the letter states. The letter also notes that major lithium purchasers and trade groups such as Ford, BMW, and the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance have expressed that “we don’t want to be party” to indigenous tribes’ rights being violated.
Lithium Americas’ $1.3 billion Thacker Pass mining project, planned for northern Nevada, continues to face serious and sustained opposition, including two lawsuits, water rights challenges, a protest camp at the proposed mine location which has been in place for four and a half months, and indigenous communities outraged about impacts on sacred sites and culturally significant resources.
The planned Thacker Pass lithium mine already faces uncertainties for an unproven chemical process to separate lithium from the clay soils. Now, the Trump Administration’s decision to “fast-track” the project — and thereby steamroll opposition — appears to have backfired.
Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (the People of Red Mountain), a group of traditional indigenous people from the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, have stated that “Thacker Pass is sacred to our people.” They assert that “Thacker Pass is a spiritually powerful place blessed by the presence of our ancestors, other spirits, and golden eagles – who we consider to be directly connected to the Creator.”
Hundreds of native people and allies have gathered on the site over recent months to conduct ceremony and express opposition to the mine.
According to Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu, Thacker Pass is a massacre site. “The name for Thacker Pass in our language is Peehee mu’huh, which in English, translates to ‘rotten moon.’ Peehee mu’huh was named so because our ancestors were massacred there while our hunters were away. When the hunters returned, they found their loved ones murdered, unburied, rotting, and with their entrails spread across the sagebrush in a part of the Pass shaped like a moon.”
They assert that “To build a lithium mine over this massacre site in Peehee mu’huh would be like building a lithium mine over Pearl Harbor or Arlington National Cemetery. We would never desecrate these places and we ask that our sacred sites be afforded the same respect.”
Others oppose the Thacker Pass mine on environmental grounds, or due to water issues. Last week, four environmental organizations which are suing the Bureau of Land Management for illegally permitting the mine filed an injunction seeking to block Lithium Nevada from beginning destructive activities at Thacker Pass.
The injunction notes that Lithium Nevada Corporation (LNC) “intends to begin ground disturbance as soon as June 23, 2021 consisting of initial excavations and digging associated with a newly approved ‘Historic Properties Treatment Plan’ which has never been submitted for public review.”
The anti-mining campaign at Thacker Pass continues to draw national attention and gain strength. On January 15th, environmental activists determined to stop the project launched a protest camp on the proposed site of the mine. Environmental concerns hinge on drawdown of aquifers, toxification of groundwater, possible toxic waste, potential damage to a federally listed threatened species (the Lahontan cutthroat trout), an extinction risk for the King’s River pyrg, destruction of nearly 6,000 acres of increasingly rare old big sagebrush habitat, disruption of pronghorn antelope migratory routes, and harm to golden eagles and greater sage-grouse.
The protest camp has drawn support from the local communities of Orovada and King’s River, which have expressed determined opposition to the mine in a series of hotly contested public meetings.
In February, local rancher Ed Bartell filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management alleging environmental reviews for the project were “grossly inaccurate, incomplete, and inadequate.”
The letter released today summarizes the strength of the opposition, and concludes that “Lithium Americas does not have a social license to operate this proposed mine… Failure to obtain the support of local communities creates a financial and political risk for mining investment.”