The final court hearing regarding the Thacker Pass lithium mine concluded on Thursday and the presiding judge says she will have a conclusive written decision about how to proceed within the next few months.
The news follows a lengthy court battle between the United States government and multiple organizations over a controversial open-pit lithium mine in Nevada, currently in its very early stages. The U.S. government and its Bureau of Land Management have been facing multiple lawsuits from Indigenous groups like the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and environmental organizations like Basin and Range Watch over their fast-tracked approval of the project and short environmental review process.
Chief Judge Miranda Du will now have the option to overturn the Trump Administration and Bureau of Land Management’s decision to permit the mine, approve of their decision or request federal regulators to re-assess the project.
On Friday, Lithium Americas Corp (TSX: LAC) (NYSE: LAC), the company responsible for running the mine, released a statement about the outcome of the hearing at the Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse in Reno, Nevada. The company says the permitting for the project was done in a responsible manner and that it wants to help secure a green future in America.
Lithium Americas has received the necessary permits to begin construction at the site but the court case and lawsuits have been delaying its progress at Thacker Pass. In 2021, judge Du ruled that the company was permitted to engage with minor construction work at the site while she reviewed the validity of the Trump Administration’s approval of the mine.
In recent days, the Biden Administration has been advocating for the necessity of crucial minerals needed for the transition to cleaner methods of transportation.
“Yesterday’s hearing provided an opportunity to reaffirm our confidence that the permitting process for Thacker Pass was conducted thoroughly and responsibly,” said Jonathan Evans, President and CEO of the company.
“As we continue to prepare for construction, we look to finalize key supply agreements and partnerships that can help to secure America’s clean energy future by providing responsible and domestically produced lithium.”
However, organizations like Protect Thacker Pass and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony won’t be satisfied until the decision to permit the lithium mine has been overturned.
“Archaic laws like the 1872 General Mining Act stack the deck in favor of mining companies and against Tribes, local communities, and nature. Regardless of how the court rules, this fight isn’t over. We’re going to speak out against greenwashing and keep advocating for Thacker Pass until this place is permanently protected,” said Max Wilbert, Co-Founder of Protect Thacker Pass in a statement provided to Mugglehead.
Bad news. Lithium Americas is working at Thacker Pass. We have observed them twice over the last three weeks with heavy equipment.
They are beginning to destroy the land. The legality of this is questionable. BUT, they are doing it anyway. And BLM is allowing them to do it. pic.twitter.com/iB33Ht7LPO
— Protect Thacker Pass (@ProtectThPass) January 8, 2023
In a statement provided to Reuters, a Reno-Sparks member expressed her frustration over the situation.
“The whole system works against us. It’s a continuation of taking tribal lands from tribes and desecrating them before they can have valid consolation,” said Arlan Melendez, Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
“Regardless of what the judge’s decision may be today, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning. This is a fight that’s going to go on,” she added.
In recent days, other North American mining companies have been engaging in initiatives to help protect the environment. Calibre Mining (TSX: CXB) (OTCQX: CXBMF), a Vancouver-based gold company with operations in Nevada and Central America, has been actively working with the Centre for Understanding Nature (CEN) — an environmental organization in Nicaragua.
Through its partnership with the CEN, the company has helped to protect millions of bees, plant over one million trees and restore about 200 hectares of woodland in the Latin American country.