In short: to protect themselves from accountability for their crimes.
Lithium Americas Corporation is splitting into two companies: Lithium Americas (which will own Thacker Pass and other North American projects) and Lithium International (which will own Cauchari-Olaroz). Why are they doing this? In short: to protect themselves from accountability for their crimes.
They are doing this to limit their liability, protect themselves from activists and political inquiries, and access loans from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The lithium brine project at Cauchari-Olaroz, in northwestern Argentina, is 44.8% owned by LAC and 46.7% owned by the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium.
LAC is trying to offload their China connection in order to bypass Republican opposition and access federal battery money, and distance themselves from the human rights abuses, environmental harms, and now worker deaths in Argentina that mirror what is beginning at Thacker Pass.
Some of you may have heard the news that Lithium Americas Corporation is splitting into two different companies and I wanted to make a short video explaining why they’re doing this and what it really means. We’ve been fighting the Thacker Pass lithium mine for almost 2 years now and the project is being pushed by Lithium Nevada corporation which is a fully owned US subsidiary company of a Canadian company called Lithium Americas.
Lithium Americas is also the half owner–they own 44.8%–of another lithium project in South America in Argentina–in the Northwest part of Argentina in what’s called the lithium triangle. This project is called Cauchari-Olaroz–I may be pronouncing that incorrectly. This project is 44.8% owned by Lithium Americas and 46.7% owned by Ganfeng Lithium which is a Chinese lithium corporation, the largest lithium producer in the world.
The reason that Lithium Americas is splitting into two different wings is to limit their liability. They’re going to split into two companies. There’s going to be Lithium Americas, which is going to be North America focused, on Thacker Pass with a few other smaller exploration projects that they’re working on, and then another company called Lithium International, which is going to be focused in Argentina on Cauchari-Olaroz.
These two companies will split. Shareholders will now own stocks in both of them and they will proceed along their different routes. The mine in Argentina is nearing construction; it’s a project they’ve been working on for many years. They’ve already built the processing plant and a lot of facilities. There were actually two worker deaths there in October. The mine in Argentina has been alleged to have engaged in serious human rights violations. They’ve been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Argentinian regulatory agencies for violating environmental regulations. They are expecting to pump millions and millions of gallons of water out of the ground every day in one of the driest areas of the entire world in a move that could destroy the aquifers entirely for the small indigenous communities living in this region of the Atacama Desert. There was a big article in the Washington Post that came out a few years back alleging these serious human rights violations in various ways. So that one reason why they want to split these two companies–it is to break these links between human rights violations, destruction of the environment, and violations of indigenous peoples rights in Argentina in South America and the exact same thing at Thacker Pass–Pee hee mu’huh–in North America. They want to break that linkage so that it’s harder for people to prove that this company is inherently unethical; that this business is inherently unethical; that it is inherently destructive to the planet, to human communities, to non-human communities, to water and so on.
The other reason that they want to split is to break this connection to Ganfeng–the Chinese Corporation. There are a lot of people in the US government who are big opponents of China for various reasons and that’s especially true among the conservative side of the government–the Republican Party. A lot of them are vehemently opposed to China because China is a communist country. Now China’s kind of a capitalist corporate communist merger in many ways that brings together the worst elements of both systems in some ways. Yet nonetheless, this is the situation. A lot of people in the Democratic party also don’t like China. We’ve seen the long history of human rights violations; of abuses of workers; of the abuses of free speech, cracking down on the population–from the invasion of Tibet on down the line to the work camps that are producing solar panels in certain regions of China right now and so on.
China is a politically toxic thing to be connected to right now. Lithium Americas wants to break that connection with China, specifically so that they can access US government loans and money that has been set aside by the Biden Administration, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense for the production of so-called “critical minerals” here inside the US. All of this money–billions of dollars–has been set aside to assist companies like Lithium Americas to start mining, and to start destroying the land here to support the economy.
Lithium America’s is having trouble accessing that money. They submitted an application for a major loan–I believe from the Department of Energy–earlier this year or late last year and they have not received the money yet and one reason is because of determined opposition from elements of the government that are concerned about this Chinese connection and don’t want it to happen.
This has led to Lithium Americas splitting into two different companies to limit their own liability. This is what corporations do. They use the structure of corporate law and the flexibility of operating on a national and international sphere to advance their own interests, bypass community opposition, bypass the problems that they cause in different ways and so on. They want to distance themselves from the human rights abuses and so on. They want to reduce their liability for the fact that they are now implicated in human rights abuses and violating the rights of indigenous people and the rights of non-human communities and water and biodiversity to exist and thrive and flourish on two continents in two countries on the other side of the world.
I want people to understand why this is happening and be able to put it into a larger context because as we’re fighting these companies, we need to understand what they’re doing and why. They’re being smart, they’re being strategic, but they’re doing so with the end goal of pulling as much profit as they possibly can out of the land, in a way that will devastate the communities that have to pay the price.
There’s a court hearing upcoming on January 5th in Reno, Nevada. My friend Will, who co-founded Protect Thacker Pass with me, is going to be arguing on behalf of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. There are going to be four environmental groups and a local rancher also fighting the project in court on January 5th. There will be a rally and a march outside the courthouse. I will see many of you there, I hope. That will in some ways determine what the next phase of this fight looks like. We’re not giving up–we’re going to keep pushing, we’re going to keep fighting in many different ways, and we’re going to need your support to do it.
Thank you for listening and I hope this video helped you learn a bit more about what this Corporation is doing and why.