A federal judge upheld a 2021 decision by then-President Donald Trump to approve the largest proposed lithium mine in the U.S., but ordered the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to confirm that the company developing the mine has the right to dump waste rock at the site, in a ruling filed Monday.
Lithium Americas — whose largest investor is the Chinese Communist Party-linked Ganfeng Lithium — is now poised to begin construction in Nevada this summer after the ruling, according to Reuters. The Thacker Pass mine, which recently received a $650 million investment from GM, is expected to be a key source of lithium for electric vehicle batteries and a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s efforts to reduce U.S. reliance on Chinese lithium supplies. (RELATED: GM To Make $650 Million Investment In Key Nevada Lithium Mine. But There’s A Problem)
“We are pleased that the Federal Court has recognized the BLM’s decision to issue the Federal Permit, reflecting our considerable efforts to ensure Thacker Pass is developed responsibly and for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Lithium Americas CEO Jonathan Evans said in a press release Tuesday. “The favorable ruling leaves in place the final regulatory approval needed in moving Thacker Pass into construction.”
Lithium Americas Receives Favorable Ruling on Record of Decision for Thacker Pass https://t.co/fkakLgzbvc$LAC #Nevada #lithium #ThackerPass pic.twitter.com/c4seEmhHMW
— Lithium Americas (@LithiumAmericas) February 7, 2023
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du found that this was a “rare case” where it was appropriate to allow the agency to review the situation despite the fact it had acted improperly, “because the records suggest BLM could fix the error the Court identifies” and the plaintiffs had failed in all their other legal challenges to the project, according to the ruling. These challenges include claims that it would harm the habitat of the local sage grouse, groundwater aquifers and air quality, in addition to claims that the BLM failed to properly consult with local Native American tribes regarding the cultural and religious significance of the site.
Evans said that he expected the error would be “an easy fix,” in an interview with Reuters.
It would still be “premature” however, to consider the judge’s decision a “green light,” Greta Anderson, deputy director of the Western Watersheds told E&E News.
“We don’t know yet what the next steps will be, but we know we won’t stop fighting this destructive mine,” Anderson said in a separate press release. “We need to find truly just and sustainable solutions for the climate crisis, and not by digging ourselves deeper into the biodiversity crisis.”
Local tribes have alleged that the BLM violated the law by not consulting the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Burns Paiute Tribe, according to E&E News. They allege that the proposed mine would destroy land known as Peehee Mu’huh, the site of an 1865 massacre, a claim that Du previously ruled in 2021 there was insufficient evidence for.
“Our hearts are heavy hearing the decision that Judge Du did not revoke the permits for the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine,” the People of Red Mountain, Indigenous Land and Culture protectors, said in a press release. “Indigenous people’s sacred sites should not be at the expense of the climate crisis the US faces. Destroying Peehee Mu’huh is like cultural genocide.”
BLM and Lithium Americas did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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