The huge project on public land, approved by the Trump administration in its final days, has sparked an outcry and a lawsuit, but opposition among Native Americans is not unanimous.
Thacker Pass, a remote valley in the high desert of northern Nevada, will always be sacred for Gary McKinney of the Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. He often visits to honor ancestors said to be killed here by U.S. soldiers in 1865. “It’s been a gathering place for our people,” said McKinney, who lives on the Duck Valley Reservation, 100 miles to the east.
McKinney and others are now fighting a new battle over an open-pit mine planned for Thacker Pass, which sits atop a massive lode of lithium. Driven by soaring demand for lithium, which is vital to electric car batteries and renewable energy, a company called Lithium Americas hopes to break ground this year on the biggest lithium mine in the U.S.
The huge project on public land, approved by the Trump administration in its final days, has sparked an outcry and a lawsuit from some area Native American groups, environmental activists and a rancher. There are also questions about whether the federal government fulfilled its obligation to seek input from Native American groups before the project, and a difference of opinion within those groups over the site’s importance and the mine’s desirability. Opposition to the project among local Native Americans is not unanimous.
Industry experts expect demand for lithium from U.S. car manufacturers to increase tenfold by 2030. By then, they predict the U.S. will need 300,000 metric tons of lithium per year to make green vehicles and a wealth of electronic appliances.
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