Protect Thacker Pass Campaign Timeline

January 15, 2021 — Due to “fast-tracked” permitting under the Trump Administration, the Bureau of Land Management releases a Record of Decision approving the Thacker Pass mine less than a year after beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process. On the same day, Max Wilbert and Will Falk established the Protect Thacker Pass camp.

February 11, 2021 — Local rancher Edward Bartell files a lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court alleging the proposed mine violates the Endangered Species Act by harming Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and would cause irreparable harm to springs, wet meadows, and water tables.

February 26, 2021 — Four environmental organizations (Basin and Range Watch, Great Basin Resource Watch, Wildlands Defense, and Western Watersheds Project) file another lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00103-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court, alleging that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and other laws in permitting the Thacker Pass mine.

June 24, 2021 — The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, calls on the Department of the Interior to rescind the permits for the Thacker Pass project.

Spring and Summer 2021 — Rallies, protests, and prayer runs take place in Orovada, Winnemucca, Reno, Carson City, and at Thacker Pass. More than 100 mine opponents gather at Thacker Pass to commemorate the 156-year anniversary of a September 12, 1865 massacre of at least 31 Northern Paiute men, women, and children committed by the 1st Nevada Cavalry. Thousands of people visit the site.

July 19, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) files a successful motion to intervene in Federal District Court (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) alleging that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in permitting the planned lithium mine.

August 2, 2021 — Burns Paiute Tribe files a motion to intervene on the side of tribal plaintiffs (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB).

September 15, 2021 — Bureau of Land Management accuses Will Falk and Max Wilbert of trespass for providing bathrooms to native elders at Thacker Pass, fining them $49,890.13.

October 8, 2021 — Eighteen native elders from three regional tribes request a BLM permit for their ceremonial camp. The BLM does not respond.

November 29, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files an amended complaint in federal court alleging major previously unknown violations of the law. In January, Judge Miranda Du rejects the amended complaint because she wants to make a final decision on the case within a few months (note that the case has now continued for another calendar year).

February 11th, 2022 — Winnemucca Indian Colony files a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of plaintiffs, claiming that BLM’s contention that they consulted with the Tribe is completely false. Judge Du rejects this motion shortly afterwards with the same reasoning used above.

April 4th, 2022 — Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files a Motion for Discovery Sanctions alleging that the BLM has been disobeying court orders and making “reckless, false statements” in a deliberate attempt to abuse the justice system and limit judicial oversight. Judge Du agrees with RSIC, but rejects the motion on a technicality.

August 2022 — BLM “discovers” five new historic sites at Thacker Pass and for the first time acknowledges the September 12, 1865 massacre took place, but continues to reject tribal expertise.

September 2022 — Lithium Nevada Corporation begins digging up portions of Thacker Pass for “bulk sampling” despite consultation still being ongoing between the Bureau of Land Management and regional tribes over cultural sites.

October 2022 — Dozens of mining activists from four continents visit Thacker Pass as part of the Western Mining Action Network biennial conference.

January 5, 2023 — Will Falk presents legal arguments on behalf of the Reno Sparks Indian Colony along with attorneys for the four environmental groups, Burns Paiute Tribe, and rancher Ed Bartell, at a hearing in Reno, Nevada, presided by Judge Du. The Judge said she will announce her decision in the case “in a couple of months”.

January 31, 2023 — General Motors Corporation (GMC) announces a $650m equity investment in Lithium Americas Corporation (LAC) for exclusive access to battery raw materials in Phase 1 of the mine project. GMC will use lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project in Ultium battery cells.

February 6, 2023 — The original lawsuits against the project conclude. Judge Miranda Du rules largely against the four environmental groups, local rancher, and two Native American tribes who filed the original cases, but orders BLM and Lithium Nevada to review certain aspects of permitting.

February 16, 2023 — A new lawsuit is filed by three Native American Tribes against the Bureau of Land Management over the Thacker Pass lithium mine.

February 27, 2023 — Environmental groups appeal their original lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00103-MMD-CLB) to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is scheduled to be heard in June.

March 1, 2023 — Tribes file an emergency motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in Case 3:23-cv-00070-MMD-CLB.

April 25, 2023 — Native elders and supporters hold a day-long prayer ceremony and successfully stop construction at the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine site.

May 11, 2023 — Native elders and supporters erect a tipi and begin a multi-day-long prayer ceremony to protect the water and land at the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine site, calling the new camp the Ox Sam Camp (Newe Mogonee Momokonee, “Indian Women’s Camp”).

May 23, 2023 — Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Burns Paiute Tribe, and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe appeal Judge Miranda Du’s March 18th denial of their emergency motion seeking to halt mine construction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

May 24, 2023 — Lithium Nevada Corporation files a civil lawsuit with characteristics of a SLAPP suit (a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against Protect Thacker Pass, Max Wilbert, Will Falk, Paul Cienfuegos, Bethany Sam, Dorece Sam, Dean Barlese, and Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu. The suit aims to bar prayerful land defenders from the area and force them to pay monetary damages that could total millions of dollars.

June 8, 2023 — Ox Sam Camp is raided by police and dismantled. One young Diné woman is arrested. Ceremonial objects are desecrated.

June 27, 2023 — Oral arguments are heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena, California in appeals brought in the Bartell Ranch v. McCullough case.

Want to get involved?

As a movement for the health of our earth, the people that live here, and the health of the ecosystems necessary for life of any kind on this planet, we are always expanding, growing, learning, and resisting. If you feel called to help Thacker Pass and/or help with related actions, we would love to hear from you!