Between a rock and a hard place: The energy transition is sparking America’s next mining boom (The Economist – February 19, 2022)

About 16m years ago, a supervolcano that straddled the borders of what is now Oregon and Nevada erupted, forming the McDermitt Caldera. The volcanic activity pushed lithium-rich rock up near the Earth’s surface, creating the largest known lithium deposit in the United States.

Today, the same terrain around the Montana Mountains is carpeted with sagebrush, and coyotes are heard more often than people. But that may soon change. Lithium Americas, a Canadian company, has plans to build a mine and processing plant at Thacker Pass, near the southern tip of the caldera in Nevada. It would be America’s biggest lithium mine.

Ranchers and farmers in nearby Orovada, a town of about 120 people, worry that the mine will threaten their water supply and air quality. Native American tribes in the region say they were not properly consulted before the Bureau of Land Management (blm), a federal agency that manages America’s vast public lands, decided to permit the project.

Tribes also allege that a massacre of their ancestors took place at Thacker Pass in 1865. Michon Eben, a history preservationist for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, says destroying the massacre site would be akin to desecrating a sacred place.

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