(Reuters) – U.S. regulators have moved a step closer toward approving Lithium Americas Corp’s Nevada mine for the white metal, launching a review process that could result in final permits to build by 2021.
The step comes as U.S. politicians have been pushing for increased domestic mining of specialized minerals. Lithium is used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Albemarle Corp is the only current U.S. producer of lithium.
The U.S. Department of the Interior filed paperwork to ask for public comment over the next year on the Thacker Pass project’s environmental impact statement, according to a post on a government website dated Jan. 21. The post appeared to be filed automatically as the department was closed on Monday for a holiday.
The 12-month review process “is a major accomplishment milestone for developing Thacker Pass,” said Jon Evans, who became the company’s chief executive last year.
The company plans to develop the Nevada mine, which would extract lithium from a clay deposit, in two phases over roughly 40 years. The project’s footprint would be about 18,000 acres (73 square kms), according to regulatory filings.