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.