People of Red Mountain Statement of Opposition to Lithium Nevada Corp.’s Proposed Thacker Pass Open Pit Lithium Mine

People of Red Mountain Statement of Opposition to Lithium Nevada Corp.’s Proposed Thacker Pass Open Pit Lithium Mine

In this statement, Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (the People of Red Mountain), oppose the proposed Lithium open pit mines in Thacker Pass. They describe the cultural and historical significance of Thacker Pass, and also the environmental and social problems the project will bring.

We, Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (the People of Red Mountain) and our native and non-native allies, oppose Lithium Nevada Corp.’s proposed Thacker Pass open pit lithium mine.

This mine will harm the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, our traditional land, significant cultural sites, water, air, and wildlife including greater sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat trout, pronghorn antelope, and sacred golden eagles. We also request support as we fight to protect Thacker Pass.

”Lithium Nevada Corp. (“Lithium Nevada”) – a subsidiary of the Canadian corporation Lithium Americas Corp. – proposes to build an open pit lithium mine that begins with a project area of 17,933 acres. When the Mine is fully-operational, it would use 5,200 acre-feet per year (equivalent to an average pumping rate of 3,224 gallons per minute) in one of the driest regions in the nation. This comes at a time when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation fears it might have to make the federal government’s first-ever official water shortage declaration which will prompt water consumption cuts in Nevada. Meanwhile, despite Lithium Nevada’s characterization of the Mine as “green,” the company estimates in the FEIS that, when the Mine is fully-operational, it will produce 152,703 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions every year.

Mines have already harmed the Fort McDermitt tribe.

Several tribal members were diagnosed with cancer after working in the nearby McDermitt and Cordero mercury mines. Some of these tribal members were killed by that cancer.

In addition to environmental concerns, Thacker Pass is sacred to our people. Thacker Pass is a spiritually powerful place blessed by the presence of our ancestors, other spirits, and golden eagles – who we consider to be directly connected to the Creator. Some of our ancestors were massacred in Thacker Pass. The name for Thacker pass in our language is Peehee mu’huh, which in English, translates to “rotten moon.” Pee-hee means “rotten” and mm-huh means “moon.” Peehee mu’huh was named so because our ancestors were massacred there while our hunters were away. When the hunters returned, they found their loved ones murdered, unburied, rotting, and with their entrails spread across the sage brush in a part of the Pass shaped like a moon. To build a lithium mine over this massacre site in Peehee mu’huh would be like building a lithium mine over Pearl Harbor or Arlington National Cemetery. We would never desecrate these places and we ask that our sacred sites be afforded the same respect.

Thacker Pass is essential to the survival of our traditions.

Our traditions are tied to the land. When our land is destroyed, our traditions are destroyed. Thacker Pass is home to many of our traditional foods. Some of our last choke cherry orchards are found in Thacker Pass. We gather choke cherries to make choke cherry pudding, one of our oldest breakfast foods. Thacker Pass is also a rich source of yapa, wild potatoes. We hunt groundhogs and mule deer in Thacker Pass. Mule deer are especially important to us as a source of meat, but we also use every part of the deer for things like clothing and for drumskins in our most sacred ceremonies.

Thacker Pass is one of the last places where we can find our traditional medicines.

We gather ibi, a chalky rock that we use for ulcers and both internal and external bleeding. COVID-19 made Thacker Pass even more important for our ability to gather medicines. Last summer and fall, when the pandemic was at its worst on the reservation, we gathered toza root in Thacker Pass, which is known as one of the world’s best anti-viral medicines. We also gathered good, old-growth sage brush to make our strong Indian tea which we use for respiratory illnesses.

Thacker Pass is also historically significant to our people.

The massacre described above is part of this significance. Additionally, when American soldiers were rounding our people up to force them on to reservations, many of our people hid in Thacker Pass. There are many caves and rocks in Thacker Pass where our people could see the surrounding land for miles. The caves, rocks, and view provided our ancestors with a good place to watch for approaching soldiers. The Fort McDermitt tribe descends from essentially two families who, hiding in Thacker Pass, managed to avoid being sent to reservations farther away from our ancestral lands. It could be said, then, that the Fort McDermitt tribe might not be here if it wasn’t for the shelter provided by Thacker Pass.

We also fear, with the influx of labor the Mine would cause and the likelihood that man camps will form to support this labor force, that the Mine will strain community infrastructure, such as law enforcement and human services. This will lead to an increase in hard drugs, violence, rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. The connection between man camps and missing and murdered indigenous women is well-established.

Finally, we understand that all of us must be committed to fighting climate change. Fighting climate change, however, cannot be used as yet another excuse to destroy native land. We cannot protect the environment by destroying it.

Sign the petition from People of Red Mountain:


For more on the Protect Thacker Pass campaign

#ProtectThackerPass #NativeLivesMatter #NativeLandsMatter

The Long Shadow of the Tar Sands: Lithium Mining and Tar Sands Sulfur [Dispatches from Thacker Pass]

The Long Shadow of the Tar Sands: Lithium Mining and Tar Sands Sulfur [Dispatches from Thacker Pass]

In this article, Max Wilbert talks about his experience in fighting tar sand mining in Washington and Utah, and how this is related to the current campaign against lithium mining in Nevada. “I think it’s wrong to blow up a mountain for tar sands. I think it’s wrong to blow up a mountain for lithium, too. I guess I’m just stubborn like that.”

by Max Wilbert

It’s often said that solar panels, wind turbines, and the lithium-ion batteries that store their energy and power electric vehicles will save the planet.

What most people don’t know is that producing lithium has direct links to the Alberta Tar Sands (also known as the Athabasca tar sands), the largest and most destructive industrial project on the planet.

This is a personal issue for me. I have fought the tar sands for over a decade. Starting in 2010, I began campaigning for the city of Bellingham, Washington to forbid a spur of the Trans Mountain pipeline which carries “dilbit” (diluted bitumen, AKA unrefined tar sands to which gas has been added so it’ll flow easily through a pipeline) under the city.

After months of campaigning, Bellingham became the first city in the nation to unanimously pass a resolution declaring tar sands fuel to be harmful. But despite overwhelming public opposition, the city’s attorneys said they couldn’t prevent the pipeline from operating using the law. What that says about the state of democracy is worth a whole different article. And perhaps a revolution. But I digress.

After my years in Bellingham, I lived in Salt Lake City, where I took part in the campaign to protect the Tavaputs Plateau in northeastern Utah from tar sands strip mining. As part of that work, I took part in public meetings, family camp-outs on the site, disruptive protests, and several direct actions against the U.S. Oil Sands Corporation.

For the last three months, I’ve been in Nevada, on Northern Paiute territory, holding down a protest camp established on the proposed site of an open-pit lithium mine. I’m an equal opportunity land defender. I think it’s wrong to blow up a mountain for tar sands. I think it’s wrong to blow up a mountain for lithium, too. I guess I’m just stubborn like that.

But as I’ve implied, these projects are directly related. It turns out, the proposed mine at Thacker Pass would likely rely directly on materials sourced from the Alberta tar sands as the key chemical ingredient in their production process.

According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the proposed Thacker Pass mine would produce 5,800 tons of sulfuric acid per day for use in refining lithium. That would require importing 1,896 tons of sulfur per day. That’s nearly 700,000 tons per year, roughly equivalent to the mass of two Empire State Buildings annually. This would be brought in to Thacker Pass on dozens of (diesel-fueled) semi-trucks each carrying 3,800 gallons of molten sulfur.

Most sulfur comes from oil and gas refineries, where it’s a byproduct of producing low-sulfur fuels to meet air-quality regulations. And here’s the punchline: according the U.S. Geological Survey, tar sands contain 11 times as much sulfur as conventional heavy crude oil. There are literal “mountains” of sulfur piling up in Alberta, and at other refineries which process tar sands fuel.

That includes the refineries in Anacortes, Washington, which refines the “dilbit” from the pipelines running underneath Bellingham, my old home. These two refineries are major sources of sulfur for the entire western United States, shipping out millions of tons annually.

According to Lithium Americas Corp. Vice President of Global Engineering, the proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass would purchase sulfur on the bulk commodity market, and it would be delivered by rail to Winnemucca (60 miles south), then brought by truck to Thacker Pass. That bulk commodity market sources nearly 100% of its elemental sulfur from oil and gas refineries.

And so we come full circle: the lithium destined for lithium-ion batteries that will be extracted from Thacker Pass, will almost certainly be directly connected to the total destruction of Alberta’s boreal forest, the poisoning of the water across thousands of square miles, the epidemic of cancers and rare diseases in that region, the wave of missing and murdered indigenous women in Alberta, and all the other harms that come from the tar sands. And, lest we forget, the tar sands are a major contributor to global warming. Canadian greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed over recent decades, as tar sands oil production has expanded.

Revenue from sales of sulfur is not unimportant to the economics of tar sands oil extraction. One report from 2018 found that as much as half a million barrels per day of tar sands product would be economical to extract if legal levels of sulfur allowed in bunker fuel were lowered. Another report found that “developing a plan for storing, selling or disposing of the sulphur will help to ensure the profitability of oil sands operations.”

All this points to a relatively simple conclusion: extraction of lithium at Thacker Pass would directly support the economics of extracting additional sulfur-rich crude oil and bitumen at the tar sands, further incentivizing the destruction of the planet.

Why do we defend the land here at Thacker Pass? There are so many reasons. It is important habitat. It is sacred ancestral land for our Northern Paiute friends from the nearby Fort McDermitt tribe. It is beautiful. But we also stand to protect this place because we stand for the truth. Lithium mining, and by extension, much of the so-called “green economy” that is being developed is not separate from fossil fuels. It is firmly dependent on fossil fuels.

Besides the sulfur, this project would burn tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel per day — operating heavy equipment made of steel that was produced with metallurgical coke, a type of coal. That same steel makes up the frame of the electric cars, too. The roads into the mine site would likely be made of asphalt concrete. You know what another name for asphalt is? Bitumen. AKA tar sands.

The idea of a “green” electric car is a fantasy. The sooner we face that reality, the sooner we can put a stop to false greenwashing projects like the Lithium Americas/Lithium Nevada Thacker Pass mine. The sooner we face reality, the sooner we can recognize that to shut down the tar sands, we actually have to shut down the tar sands, not just blow up other mountains elsewhere and hope that leads to the end of the tar sands.

Do not fool yourself. This is not some great green transition. It is more of the same. More destroyed land, more poisoned water, more decimated wildlife.

It’s beautiful here at Thacker Pass. Yesterday morning, I woke before 5am to visit the Greater sage-grouse “lek” — mating ground — on top of the mountain directly above the proposed mine. I watched the male grouse strut and dance, and thought about the new USGS report showing that grouse populations have declined by 80% since 1965, and nearly 40% since 2002. That comes on top of previous population collapses. The population was 16 million a century ago. Now, it’s closer to 200,000. That’s a 99% decline. This region, the northwestern Great Basin, has been particularly hard hit.

It is possible for humans to live sustainably. Our ancestors managed it for hundreds of thousands of years. Is it possible to live sustainably, and drive cars? No, I don’t believe it is. You may not like it, but there’s a thing about the natural laws of the universe: they don’t give a damn if you like them or not. Gravity exists. Ecological constraints exist. If you ignore them, you will pay the price.

We cannot afford to ignore the truth, and because of this, we must stop the Thacker Pass mine — and the tar sands. We need your help. If you can contribute to this campaign, or to the broader transformation of society that is needed, reach out to us at Construction might begin very soon. If that happens, Thacker Pass will die. The water will be poisoned. And the truth will be crushed along with the sagebrush, under the hard metal treads of the bulldozers. Stand with us.

#ProtectThackerPass #BrightGreenLies #TarSands #Greenwashing #Lithium #EVs #EnergyStorage #KeepItInTheGround

Photo: Large sulfur pile — byproduct of tar sands oil refining. By Leonard G., Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0.

Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe Cancels Agreement with Lithium Mine, Promising Lawsuit

Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe Cancels Agreement with Lithium Mine, Promising Lawsuit

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Daranda Hinkey

Fort McDermitt, Nevada — Opposition to lithium mining is growing in native communities in Nevada. On Monday, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe formally resolved to cancel a Project Engagement Agreement with mining company Lithium Nevada, citing threats to land, water, wildlife, hunting and gathering areas, and sacred sites.

The Tribal Council also agreed to initiate a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for violations of federal law in permitting the Thacker Pass lithium mine project to proceed.

These moves, from a tribal council which was previously supportive or neutral towards the mine, come after pressure from traditionalists in the Fort McDermitt community. On March 22, these traditionalists brought a petition to the tribal government asking that they “stop all partnerships with any mining company and to file a lawsuit against Lithium Nevada Corp LNC, Lithium America, Jindalee Resources Limited and any other company associated to stop the development of the proposed Lithium Mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada.”

The group cited violations of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and other laws.

Opposition to the Thacker Pass mine has been growing since January 15th, when the Bureau of Land Management approved the federal permit for the project and—on the same day—a protest camp was established on the proposed mine site. Members of the Fort McDermitt tribe have played an important role in resupplying and overseeing the camp, which is located on their traditional lands. Over the past two months, community members, elders, families, and spiritual leaders have spent time at Thacker Pass engaging in ceremony, including a 273-mile prayer walk ending at the site, and visitors have come from many nearby reservations.

The Thacker Pass mine is also broadly opposed by residents of Orovada and King’s River, two nearby unincorporated communities. One rancher has filed a lawsuit, citing impacts to groundwater, streams, and to threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, and a local community group, “Thacker Pass Concerned Citizens,” has formed with the majority of members expressing opposition or serious concerns. A coalition of four environmental groups has also filed a lawsuit against the project, and the group “Protect Thacker Pass” setup the protect camp nearly three months ago.

The lithium industry is booming worldwide as governments shift subsidies towards electric vehicles, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries, and towards wind and solar power which often require battery storage for periods when wind stops and nighttime or clouds block the sun.

There are numerous proposed lithium mine projects in Nevada and the United States. The petition filed Monday night also mentions Jindalee Resources, an Australian mining company currently exploring for lithium deposits just north of the Oregon border, near Fort McDermitt. Another proposed lithium mine located at Rhyolite Ridge, further south in Nevada, has attracted major opposition due to an endangered wildflower on the site.


How Corporations Work to Undermine Grassroots Resistance, and How to Stop Them

How Corporations Work to Undermine Grassroots Resistance, and How to Stop Them

In this article Max Wilbert outlines the political and environmental need for security culture. He offers recommendations to secure  communications.

By Max Wilbert

For 50 days, the Protect Thacker Pass camp has stood here in the mountains of northern Nevada, on Northern Paiute territory, to defend the land against a strip mine.

Lithium Americas, a Canadian corporation, means to blow up, bulldoze, or pave 5,700 acres of this wild, biodiverse land to extract lithium for “green” electric cars. In the process, they will suck up billions of gallons of water, import tons and tons of waste from oil refineries to be turned into sulfuric acid, burn 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel per day, toxify groundwater with arsenic, antimony, and uranium, harm wildlife from Golden eagles and Pronghorn antelope to Greater sage-grouse and the endemic King’s River pyrg, and lay waste to traditional territories still used by people from the Fort McDermitt reservation and the local ranching and farming communities.

The Campaign to Protect Thacker Pass

They claim this is an “environmentally sustainable” project. We disagree, and we mean to stop them from destroying this place.

Thus far, our work has been focused on outreach and spreading the word. For the first two weeks, there were only two of us here. Now word has begun to spread. The campaign is entering a new stage. There are new opportunities opening, but we must be cautious.

How Corporations Disrupt Grassroots Resistance Movements

Corporations, faced with grassroots resistance, follow a certain playbook. We can look at the history of how these companies respond to determine their strategies and the best ways to counteract them.

Corporations like Lithium Americas Corporation generally do not have in-house security teams, beyond basic security for facilities and IT/digital security. Therefore, when faced with growing grassroots resistance, their first move will be to hire an outside corporation to conduct surveillance, intelligence gathering, and offensive operations.

Private Military Corporations (PMCs) are essentially mercenaries acting largely outside of government regulation or democratic control. They are hired by private corporations to assist in their interests and act as for-hire businesses with few or no ethical considerations. Some examples of these corporations are TigerSwan, Triple Canopy, and STRATFOR.

PMCs are often staffed with U.S. military veterans, and employ counterinsurgency techniques and skills honed during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or other military operations. And in many cases, these PMCs collaborate with public law enforcement agencies to share information, such that law enforcement is essentially acting as a private contractor for a corporation.

Disruption Tactics Used by Corporate Goon Squads

PMCs can be expected to deploy four basic tactics.

  1. Intelligence Gathering

First, they will attempt to gather as much information on protesters as possible. This begins with what is called OSINT — Open Source Intelligence. This simply means combing through open records on the internet: Googling names, scrolling through social media profiles and groups, and compiling information that is publicly available for anyone who cares to look.

Other methods of information gathering are more active, and include physical surveillance (such as flying a helicopter overhead, as occurred today), signals intelligence (attempting to capture cell phone calls, emails, texts, and website traffic using a device like a Stingray also known as an IMSI catcher), and infiltration or human intelligence (HUMINT). This last is perhaps the most important, the most dangerous, and the most difficult to combat.

  1. Disruption

Second, they will attempt to disrupt the protest. This is often done by using the classic tactics of COINTELPRO to plant rumors, false information, and foment infighting to weaken opposition.

During the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, one TigerSwan infiltrator working inside the protest camps wrote to his team that

“I need you guys to start looking at the activists in your area and see if there are individuals who are vulnerable. They’re broke, always talking about needing gas money or whatever. Maybe they’re disillusioned, depressed a little. Life is fucking them over. We can buy them a bus ticket to any camp they want if they’re willing to provide intel. We win no matter what. If they agree to inform for pay, we get intel. If they tell our pitchman to go f*** himself/herself, the activist will start wondering who did take the money and it’ll cause conflict within the activist groups and it won’t cost us anything.”

In 2013, there was a leak of documents from the private intelligence company STRATFOR, which has worked for the American Petroleum Institute, Dow Chemical, Northrup Grumman, Coca Cola, and so on. The leaked documents revealed one part of STRATFOR’s strategy for fighting social movements. The document proposes dividing activists into four groups, then exploiting their differences to fracture movements.

“Radicals, idealists, realists and opportunists [are the four categories],” the leaked documents state. “The Opportunists are in it for themselves and can be pulled away for their own self-interest. The Realists can be convinced that transformative change is not possible and we must settle for what is possible.  Idealists can be convinced they have the facts wrong and pulled to the Realist camp.  Radicals, who see the system as corrupt and needing transformation, need to be isolated and discredited, using false charges to assassinate their character is a common tactic.”

As I will discuss later on, solidarity and movement culture is the best way to push back against these methods.

Other examples of infiltration and disruption have often focused on:

  • Increasing tensions around racist or sexist behavior
  • Targeting individuals with drug or alcohol addictions to become informants
  • Using sex appeal and relationship building to get information
  • Acting as an “agent provocateur” to encourage protesters to become violent, even to the point of supplying them with bombs, in order to secure arrests
  • Spreading rumors about inappropriate behavior to sew discord and mistrust
  1. Intimidation

The third tactic used by these companies is intimidation. They will use fear and paranoia as a deliberate form of psychological warfare. This can include anonymous threats, shows of force, visible surveillance, and so on.

  1. Violence

When other methods fail, PMCs and public law enforcement will ultimately resort to direct violence, as we have seen with Standing Rock and many other protest movements.

As I have written before, colonial states enforce their resource extraction regimes with force, and we should disabuse ourselves of notions to the contrary. Vigilante violence is also always a concern. When people seek to defend land from destruction, men with guns are usually dispatched to arrest them, remove them from the site, and lock them in cages.

How to Resist Against Surveillance and Repression

There are specific techniques we can deploy to protect ourselves, and by extension, protect the land at Thacker Pass. These techniques are called “security culture.”

Security culture is a set of practices and attitudes designed to increase the safety of political communities. These guidelines are created based on recent and historic state repression, and help to reduce paranoia and increase effectiveness.

Security culture cannot keep us 100% safe, all the time. There is risk in political action. But it helps us manage risks that do exist, and take calculated risks when necessary to achieve our goals.

The first rule of security culture is this: be cautious, but do not live in fear. We cannot let their intimidation be effective. Creating paranoia is a key goal for PMCs and other repressive organizations. When they make us so paranoid we no longer take action, reach out to potential allies, or plan and carry out our campaigns, they win using only the techniques of psychological warfare. When we are fighting to protect the land and water, we are doing something righteous, and we should be proud and stand tall while we do this work.

The second rule of security culture is that solidarity is how we overcome paranoia, snitchjacketing, and rumor-spreading. We must act with principles and in a deeply ethical and honorable way. Work to build alliances, friendships, and trust—while maintaining good boundaries and holding people accountable. This is the foundation of a good culture.

In regards to infiltration, security culture recommends the following:

  1. It’s not safe nor a good idea to generally speculate or accuse people of being infiltrators. This is a typical tactic that infiltrators use to shut movements down.
  2. Paranoia can cause destructive behavior.
  3. Making false/uncertain accusations is dangerous: this is called “bad-jacketing” or “snitch-jacketing.”
  4. Build relationships deliberately, and build trust slowly. Do not share sensitive information with people who don’t need to know it. There is a fine line between promoting a campaign and sharing information that could put someone at risk.
  5. Good security culture focuses on identifying and stopping bad behavior.
  6. Do not talk to police or law enforcement unless you are a designated liaison.

Secure communications are an important part of security culture.

Here are some basic recommendations to secure your communications.

  1. Email, phone calls, social media, and text messages are inherently insecure. Nothing sensitive should be discussed using these platforms.
  2. Preferably, use modern secure messaging apps such as Signal, Wire, or Session. These apps are free and easy to use.
  3. We recommend setting up and using a VPN for all your internet access needs at camp. ProtonVPN and Firefox VPN are two reputable providers. These tools are easy to use after a brief initial setup, and only cost a small amount. Invest in security.

We must also remember that secure communications aren’t a magic bullet. If you’re communicating with someone who decides to share your private message, it’s no longer private. Use common sense and consider trust when using secure communications tools.

Security culture also warns us not talk about some sensitive issues, including:

  • Your or someone else’s participation in illegal action.
  • Someone else’s advocacy for such actions.
  • Your or someone else’s plans for a future illegal action.
  • Don’t talk about illegal actions in terms of specific times, people, places, etc.

Note: Nonviolent civil disobedience is illegal, but can sometimes be discussed openly. In general, the specifics of nonviolent civil disobedience should be discussed only with people who will be involved in the action or those doing support work for them. It’s still acceptable (even encouraged) to speak out generally in support of monkeywrenching and all forms of resistance as long as you don’t mention specific places, people, times, etc.


 Security is a very important topic, but is challenging. There are so many potential threats, and we are not used to acting in a secure way. That’s why we are working to create a “security culture”—so that our communities of resistance are always considering security, assessing threats, studying our opposition, and creating countermeasures to their methods.

This article is only a brief introduction to the topic of security culture. Moving forward, we will be providing regular trainings in security culture to Protect Thacker Pass participants.

Most importantly, do not let this scare you, and do not be overwhelmed. Simply take one security measure at a time, begin to study it, and then implement better protocols one by one. We use the term “security culture” because security is a mindset that should be developed and shared.


Recommended topics of study:

Green Lithium Mining is a Bright Green Lie. Dispatches from Thacker Pass

Green Lithium Mining is a Bright Green Lie. Dispatches from Thacker Pass

Written By Max Wilbert and  originally published on January 25, 2021 in Sierra Nevada Ally. In this article Max describes the plans for an industrial scale lithium mine, the harm this will cause and why we need to protect the area for endangered species.

Thacker Pass landscape. Image: Max Wilbert

On January 15th, my friend Will Falk and myself launched a protest occupation of the proposed lithium mine site at Thacker Pass, Nevada. We have set up tents, protest signs, and weathered more than a week of winter weather to oppose lithium mining, which would destroy Thacker Pass.

You might already be wondering: “Why are people protesting lithium? Isn’t it true that lithium is a key ingredient in the transition to electric cars, and moving away from fossil fuels? Shouldn’t people be protesting fossil fuels?”

Let me put any rumors to rest.

I am a strong opponent of fossil fuels and have fought against the industry for over a decade. I’ve fought tar sands pipelines, stopped coal trains, and personally climbed on top of heavy equipment to stop fossil fuel mining.

Now I’m here, in northern Nevada, to try and stop lithium mining. That’s because, in terms of the impact on the planet, there’s little difference between a lithium mine and an open-pit coal mine. Both require bulldozing entire ecosystems. Both use huge amounts of water. Both leave behind poisoned aquifers. And both are operated with massive heavy machinery largely powered by diesel.

The encampment at Thacker Pass. Image: Max Wilbert

I want people to understand that lithium mining is not “good” for the planet.

Sure, compared to coal mining, a lithium mine may ultimately result in less greenhouse gas emissions. But not by much. The proposed Lithium Americas mine at Thacker Pass would burn more than 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel every day, according to the Environmental Impact Statement. Processing the lithium would also require massive quantities of sulfur—waste products from oil refineries. One local resident told me they expect “a semi-truck full of sulfur every 10 minutes” on these rural, quiet roads.

This is not a “clean transition.” It’s a transition from one dirty industrial energy source to another. We’re making the argument for something completely different, and more foundational:degrowth. We need economic contraction, relocalization, and to stop using and wasting so many resources on unnecessary consumer products.

When people think about wilderness and important habitat, they generally don’t think of Nevada. But they should. Thacker Pass is not some empty desolate landscape. It’s part of the most important Greater sage-grouse habitat left in the state. This region has between 5-8% of all remaining sage-grouse, according to Nevada Department of Wildlife and BLM surveys.

Thacker Pass is home to an endemic snail species, the King’s River pyrg, which biologists have called “a critically imperiled endemic species at high risk of extinction” if the mine goes forward. Burrowing owls, pygmy rabbits, golden eagles, the threatened Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and hundreds of other species call this place home, watershed, or migration corridor.

Thacker Pass is home to important old stands of Big sagebrush who are increasingly rare in Nevada and threatened by global warming.

One biologist who has worked in Thacker Pass, and who asked to remain unnamed for fear of retaliation, told me the Thacker Pass area “has seen the rapid decline of native shrubland/bunchgrass communities that form the habitat foundation.” He continued, “Those communities (particularly sagebrush) are already under tremendous stress from the dual-threat of invasive annual grasses (especially cheatgrass) and the increased fire returns that those volatile fuels cause.”

Now the BLM is permitting Lithium Americas corporation to come bulldoze what is left, tear away the mountainside for some 50 years, and leave behind a moonscape.

We are engaging in direct action and protest against this mine because the public process is not working. Despite sustained opposition, BLM ignored serious concerns about this mine and “fast-tracked” this project under the direction of the Trump Administration. We mean to stop the mine with people-power.

If you are interested in joining us, visit our website, to learn more about getting involved. And speak out on this issue. We can’t save the planet by destroying it. Transitioning away from fossil fuels and fixing humanity’s broken relationship with the planet will require a more critical approach. Follow

Max Wilbert is an organizer, writer, and wilderness guide. He has been part of grassroots political work for nearly 20 years. His second book, Bright Green Lies: How The Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It, co-authored with Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith, will be released in March.

For more on the issue: