The long-running court case between those in favour of Nevada’s Thacker Pass lithium mine and those protesting against it has now concluded following the state’s chief judge ruling in favour of the American government and Lithium Americas (TSX: LAC) (NYSE: LAC).
Chief Judge Miranda Du provided her decision on Monday in the case between the United States government and the Indigenous groups, rancher and environmental organizations that filed lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for permitting the project in early 2021.
However, Judge Du has ordered the United States BLM to verify that Lithium Americas has valid mineral rights for a 1,300-acre section of land where the company plans to store its waste and mine tailings from the project; and environmental activists like Max Wilbert from Protect Thacker Pass are not satisfied with the decision.
The judge has issued her verdict on the Thacker Pass lithium mine lawsuit. It's what we expected: she almost entirely rejected the arguments of the plaintiffs, except in one minor area.
— Max Wilbert (@MaxWilbert) February 7, 2023
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony also issued a statement illustrating the group’s feelings on the judge’s ruling.
“This does not mean consultation was done correctly and it does not mean this fight is over. We will be continuing to advocate for this sacred site,” said Arlan Melendez, Chairman of the Indigenous group.
“Law is a limited tactic – especially in public lands mining cases where the law presumes corporations have a right to mine. If we’re going to truly protect Thacker Pass, we’re going to have to do more than file lawsuits and litigate in court. We cannot rely on the government or a judge to protect Thacker Pass. We’ll have to do it ourselves,” said Will Falk, an attorney for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
The news follows General Motors (NYSE: GM) announcing that it would be investing US$650 million in the project at the end of January to help secure a reliable source of lithium for its present and future catalogue of electric vehicles.
The first tranche of that amount will now be released to Lithium Americas following the judge’s ruling on Monday as the money was being held in escrow by GM prior to court approval of the Record of Decision and conclusion of the lawsuits.
Lithium Americas stated that the court has rejected arguments saying the project will cause environmental degradation and that the BLM acted unreasonably in permitting the mine.
“We are pleased that the federal court has recognized the BLM’s decision to issue the federal permit, reflecting our considerable efforts to ensure Thacker Pass is developed responsibly and for the benefit of all stakeholders,” said Jonathan Evans, CEO of Lithium Americas.
“The favourable ruling leaves in place the final regulatory approval needed in moving Thacker Pass into construction.”
Lithium Americas stock price rose by 0.55 per cent today to $34.86 on the TSX.