A “white gold” rush is underway in Nevada that has seen more than 17,000 placer claims on lithium, but about three-quarters of the sites are on tribal lands and Native Americans fear their ancestral homeland will be turned into “a sacrificial zone for batteries of electric cars.’
One site in particular, Thacker Pass, is expected to produce at least 80,000 tons of the soft metal annually.
However, this land is where dozens of Native Americans were massacred in 1865 and Shelley Harjo, a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe, stated: the project “will be the biggest desecration and rape of a known Native American massacre in our area.”
Government officials, including President Joe Biden, appear not to let the land of the tribes stand in the way of increasing lithium production in the US, as Biden has previously said he will “use every tool.” [he has] to make that possible.’
About three quarters of the lithium in Nevada is on tribal land, including Thacker Pass (pictured) that will be mined and one of them is
Nevada, which has seen more than 17,000 placer claims (pictured) on lithium. This data is from September 2022
The US is slowly abandoning gas-powered cars for electric vehicles in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but the shift also means they will be more dependent on other countries, such as China, to supply the materials they need.
Mining lithium on American soil would help the nation move towards self-reliance, something the country has strived for but has not yet achieved.
Lithium mines in Nevada would push America toward the goal, but the mission has been criticized by Native American and environmental groups, who are specifically concerned about Thackers Pass, the guard reports.
The Thacker Pass lithium mine is a proposed project in Humboldt County owned by Lithium Americas that could produce lithium for the next 50 years.
The project was announced in January 2021 and soon after, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Burns Paiute Tribe filed a lawsuit against the construction because of the murders that had taken place hundreds of years ago.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du ruled in November 2021 that there was no evidence that a massacre had taken place and that Lithium Americas was free to develop the site further.
However, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) re-examined the site in 2022 and found remains that showed 31 men, women and children were massacred there by government soldiers.
The Thacker Pass lithium mine is a proposed project in Humboldt County owned by Lithium Americas that could produce lithium for the next 50 years
The project was announced in January 2021 and soon after, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Burns Paiute Tribe petitioned the court to halt construction due to the murders that had occurred hundreds of years ago.
BLM land managers concluded that while the sites qualify for the National Register of Historic Places, none of the five sites discovered during their survey were within the boundaries of the lithium project area, according to the agency. This means that Lithium Americas can go ahead with its plans.
Lithium exploration has increased dramatically in Nevada in recent years and it is also home to the only working mine in the US.
The mine, located in Silver Peak, produces about 5,000 tons of lithium per year, which is enough to make batteries for 80,000 electric vehicles, The Guardian reports.
And as many states, such as California and New York, are phasing out gas-powered cars for electric vehicles, the US will have to supply high demand.
Lithium exploration has increased dramatically in Nevada in recent years and it is also home to the only working mine in the US. The mine, located in Silver Peak, produces about 5,000 tons of lithium per year, which is enough to make batteries for 80,000 electric vehicles
As many states, such as California and New York, are phasing out gas-powered cars for electric vehicles, the US will have to provide for high demand. Pictured are lithium evaporation ponds in Silver Peak
Karen Narwold, executive vice president at Albemarle, told the Guardian: “The demand for lithium is enormous; at this point I think it’s safe to say that the demand definitely outweighs the supply.
“I think the Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act are really great opportunities for the US to develop a domestic supply chain for EVs.”
However, Harjo does not have the same enthusiasm as Narwold.
Are we willing to sacrifice sacred sites, health and internal balance for short-term economic gain, while giant corporations create immeasurable wealth, deplete resources and leave our future generations to suffer the disarray that the Thacker Pass mine would leave behind?’, wrote Harjo.
‘I will never believe that this is the best method of living greener and that also applies to many other natives in our area.
“Digging the open mine of Thacker Pass on holy land will only open many doors for additional destruction on Mother Earth.”