sent to Earth First! Newswire
On Monday, Judge Miranda Du issued her decision in the consolidated Thacker Pass court cases including Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Burns Paiute Tribe lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management. Judge Du ruled against the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and all the other plaintiffs except on one, limited argument. She found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not determine whether or not Lithium Nevada possesses valid mineral rights for 1,300 of the 18,000 acres that the mine would cover. The judge is allowing the rest of the mine to proceed while BLM determines whether Lithium Nevada possesses those rights.
“We have expected this decision for some time,” said Arlan Melendez, Chairman of the RenoSparks Indian Colony. “This does not mean consultation was done correctly and it does not mean this fight is over. We will be continuing to advocate for this sacred site.”
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony attorney Will Falk said in a statement, “Law is a limited tactic – especially in public lands mining cases where the law presumes corporations have a right to mine. If we’re going to truly protect Thacker Pass, we’re going to have to do more than file lawsuits and litigate in court. We cannot rely on the government or a judge to protect Thacker Pass. We’ll have to do it ourselves.”
Falk is the co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass, which led a protest camp on the site for much of 2021.
Thacker Pass, known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, is a sacred site to regional tribes whose ancestors lived in the area for thousands of years, and were massacred there on at least two occasions. It’s also critical habitat for wildlife including pronghorn, Greater sage-grouse, golden
eagles, mule deer, and an endangered snail species, the King’s River Pyrg.
Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming, and the Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass. Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat and create significant pollution. They say that electric cars are still harmful to the planet.
– January 15, 2021 — Due to “fast-tracked” permitting under the Trump Administration, the Bureau of Land Management releases a Record of Decision approving the Thacker Pass mine less than a year after beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process. On the same day, Max Wilbert and Will Falk established the Protect Thacker Pass camp.
– February 11, 2021 — Local rancher Edward Bartell files a lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv00080-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court alleging the proposed mine violates the Endangered Species Act by harming Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and would cause irreparable harm to springs, wet meadows, and water tables.
– February 26, 2021 — Four environmental organizations (Basin and Range Watch, Great Basin Resource Watch, Wildlands Defense, and Western Watersheds Project) file another lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00103-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court, alleging that BLM
violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and other laws in permitting the Thacker Pass mine.
– June 24, 2021 — The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, calls on the Department of the Interior to rescind the permits for the Thacker Pass project.
– Spring and Summer 2021 — Rallies, protests, and prayer runs take place in Orovada, Winnemucca, Reno, Carson City, and at Thacker Pass. More than 100 mine opponents gather at Thacker Pass to commemorate the 156-year anniversary of a September 12, 1865 massacre of at least 31 Northern Paiute men, women, and children committed by the 1st Nevada Cavalry. Thousands of people visit the site.
– July 19, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) files a successful motion to intervene in Federal District Court (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) alleging that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in permitting the planned lithium mine.
– August 2, 2021 — Burns Paiute Tribe files a motion to intervene on the side of tribal plaintiffs (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB).
– September 15, 2021 — Bureau of Land Management accuses Will Falk and Max Wilbert of trespass for providing bathrooms to native elders at Thacker Pass, fining them $49,890.13.
– October 8, 2021 — Eighteen native elders from three regional tribes request a BLM permit for their ceremonial camp. The BLM does not respond.
– November 29, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files an amended complaint in federal court alleging major previously unknown violations of the law. In January, Judge Miranda Du rejects the amended complaint because she wants to make a final decision on the case within a few months (note that the case has now continued for another calendar year).
– February 11th, 2022 — Winnemucca Indian Colony files a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of plaintiffs, claiming that BLM’s contention that they consulted with the Tribe is completely false. Judge Du rejects this motion shortly afterwards with the same reasoning used above.
– April 4th, 2022 — Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files a Motion for Discovery Sanctions alleging that the BLM has been disobeying court orders and making “reckless, false statements” in a deliberate attempt to abuse the justice system and limit judicial oversight. Judge Du agrees with RSIC, but rejects the motion on a technicality.
– August 2022 — BLM “discovers” five new historic sites at Thacker Pass and for the first time acknowledges the September 12, 1865 massacre took place, but continues to reject tribal expertise.
– September 2022 — Lithium Nevada Corporation begins digging up portions of Thacker Pass for “bulk sampling” despite consultation still being ongoing between the Bureau of Land Management and regional tribes over cultural sites.
– October 2022 — Dozens of mining activists from four continents visit Thacker Pass as part of the Western Mining Action Network biennial conference.
– January 31, 2023 — General Motors Corporation (GMC) announces a $650m equity investment in Lithium Americas Corporation (LAC) for exclusive access to battery raw materials in Phase 1 of the mine project. GMC will use lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project in Ultium battery cells.