Lithium Wars: The New Gold Rush

In these brief series, Max Wilbert explores the #ThackerPass Litium Deposit in Humboldt Count, Nevada which will serve as a lithium clay mining development project  proposed by the Nevada government and federal agencies. This project will compromise the flora, fauna and streams of the area just for the sake of “clean” energy and profit.


By Max Wilbert

This is the first video dispatch from my trip to the area of two proposed lithium mines in Nevada. I’m working to build awareness of the threats these projects pose and resistance to them. I’ll have more to share next week.

This video comes from the top of a ridge directly to the east of the proposed Rhyolite Ridge open-pit lithium mine in Southern Nevada. After arriving by moonlight the night before, I scrambled up this rocky ridge in the dawn light to get an overview of the landscape. Everything that you see here is under threat for electric car batteries.

This is habitat for Tiehm’s buckwheat, cholla cactus, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, prairie falcon, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, jackrabbit, ring-tailed cat, and literally hundreds of other species.

Is it worth destroying their home and their lives for electric cars?

This is the traditional territory of the Walker River Paiute, the Agai-Dicutta Numa, and other bands of the Northern Paiute.

What killed 14,000 critically endangered buckwheat plants at the site of a proposed lithium mine to supply critical minerals for the so-called “green” electric vehicle industry?

This video reports from Rhyolite Ridge in western Nevada, traditional territory of the Walker River Paiute, the Agai-Dicutta Numa, and other bands of the Northern Paiute.

Was it rodents, or was it vandalism? Climate catastrophe or eco-terrorism?

Benjamin R. Grady, the President of the Eriogonum Society, said in a letter that “As distasteful as it is to consider, intentional human action may have caused the demise of thousands of E. tiehmii individuals over the course of two months from July to September 2020. Having studied this genus since 2007, I have visited hundreds of different Eriogonum populations across the American West. Never once have I seen this type of directed small mammal attack at any of those sites. To me, the widespread damage to just E. tiehmii plants was remarkable. The timing of this attack is also suspicious. The threat of a large-scale lithium mine has recently thrust E. tiehmii into the spotlight. This species has been monitored since the early 1990’s and this type of widespread damage has not been documented. While on site on the 23rd of September, I did not notice any scat, with the exception of a few scattered lagomorph pellets. I carefully examined uprooted plants and no actual herbivory was noticed. The green to graying leaves were unchewed and intact. Eriogonum species likely offer little reward of water or nutrients at this time of year.”

Either way, this video is a crime-scene investigation from the middle of the proposed open-pit lithium mine at Rhyolite Ridge, in western Nevada on traditional territory of the Walker River Paiute, the Agai-Dicutta Numa, and other bands of the Northern Paiute.

We don’t know what happened to these plants, but it is clear that they deserve protection. Ioneer’s plan to build an open-pit lithium mine at this site must be resisted.

Reporting from #ThackerPass #Nevada – site of a massive proposed lithium mine. Nevada government and federal agencies have fast-tracked the sacrifice of this mountainside in favor of a $1.3 billion dollar mine that could produce tens of billions in profits. Meanwhile, local streams will be polluted, Lahontan cutthroat trout spawning grounds will be smothered under radioactive sediment, Pronghorn antelope migration routes blocked, Greater sage-grouse habitat blasted to nothing, local people will have to deal with acid rain, ancient cultural sites will be desecrated, and this quiet wilderness will be turned into an industrialized zone — unless the project is stopped.


To learn more about the Thacker pass, check out this article and this website. Watch more of Max’s videos here.

2 thoughts on “Lithium Wars: The New Gold Rush”

  1. Close to 10 years ago (in the infancy of the lithium industry, relatively speaking), I read that half of the world’s extractable lithium had already been used, and that half of what remained was under Chinese control. Given that next to nobody then had an electric car — and that industry, the Green New Deal, and Joe Biden now want everybody to have one by 2035 — you don’t need to be a math whiz to realize that lithium is about to become one of the rarest and most sought after minerals on Earth.

    Thus it is inevitable that lithium will soon be like the gold in that proposed mine in Mexico — where rock containing trace amounts of gold will be blasted and poisoned with cyanide, to extract .03 grams of gold per ton of rock.

    “Rare” as it is, lithium is like the gold in that proposed mine in Mexico. Lithium is in rocks everywhere — but in tiny, trace amounts. So to keep the electric car industry on the road, it can’t be long before there’ll be a demand to extract lithium where it’s only a trace element, too.

    That’s the promise of industrial civilization, in a “developing” world of 8 billion-plus people: GMO foods produced with toxic chemicals, livestock fed daily doses of antibiotics, “green” products made by blasting holes the size of football fields into every mountain, desert, forest, and seabed — and all coordinated by 5G computers, bathing everything and everyone in microwave radiation with a wavelength approaching that of x-rays. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. Footnote: Here’a one legitimate use for lithium. In a recent article in Life Extension magazine, a medical doctor advised everyone to take a daily microdose of lithium. Studies have shown that people who live in areas where drinking water contains adequate trace amounts of lithium have a dramatically lower rate of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In other words, lithium belongs in our brains, not in our cars.

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