In Nevada’s remote Thacker Pass, a fight for our future is playing out between local Indigenous tribes and powerful state and corporate entities hellbent on mining the lithium beneath their land. Vancouver-based Lithium Americas is developing a massive lithium mine at Thacker Pass, but for more than two years several local tribes and environmental organizations have tried to block or delay the mine in the courts and through direct action. The Thacker Pass Project is backed by the Biden administration, and companies like General Motors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project, looking to capitalize on the transition to a “green energy economy,” for which lithium is essential.
As Canada’s governments hungrily scour domestic and foreign territory in search of critical minerals—an essential part of Ottawa’s new Cold War on China—Ontario Premier Doug Ford is attempting to spin demand into a provincial mining boom. Ontario’s first-ever Critical Minerals Strategy (CMS), announced alongside a federal initiative of the same name, proclaims that the province is “incredibly fortunate” and “blessed with exquisite deposits of nickel, lithium, platinum, cobalt and dozens of other strategically important raw materials.” Ford’s economic policies are catering to mining companies that yearn for unfettered access to these resource supplies, even as Indigenous communities organize to resist the extractivist bonanza.
While the United States, along with its allies, left Afghanistan in August 2021 in spectacularly humiliating circumstances, the departure was never entirely complete, nor bound to be permanent. Since then, Washington has led the charge in handicapping those who, with a fraction of the resources, defeated a superpower and prevailed in two decades of conflict. In a fit of wounded pride, the United States has, in turn, sought to strangulate and asphyxiate the Taliban regime, citing human rights and security concerns. The Taliban’s Interim Foreign Minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, makes the not unreasonable point that “the ongoing crisis is the imposition of sanctions and banking restrictions by the United States.”
Reno, Nevada — Lithium Nevada Corporation has filed a lawsuit against Protect Thacker Pass and seven people for opposing the Thacker Pass lithium mine. The lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down free speech and protest. The suit aims to ban the prayerful land defenders from the area and force them to pay monetary damages which could total millions of dollars. “This lawsuit is targeting Native Americans and their allies for a non-violent prayer to protect the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre site,” said Terry Lodge, attorney working with the group.
Orovada, NV — This morning, a group of Native American water protectors and allies used their bodies to non-violently block construction of the controversial Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, turning back bulldozers and heavy equipment. The dramatic scene unfolded this morning as workers attempting to dig trenches near Sentinel Rock were turned back by land defenders who ran and put their bodies between heavy equipment and the land. Now they are being arrested and camp is being raided. Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone people consider Thacker Pass to be sacred.
Orovada, Nevada — For nearly two and a half years, local Native American tribes and leaders have been trying to stop the Thacker Pass lithium project, an open-pit mine that will destroy a sacred site. But despite lawsuits, rallies, regulatory hearings, and community organizing, Lithium Nevada Corporation has now begun construction of the mine at the place Paiutes call “Peehee Mu’huh,” or rotten moon. But the construction has not gone unopposed. On May 11th, Native Americans from the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone and other regional tribes set up a tipi at Thacker Pass and began prayers directly in the path of the construction of Lithium Nevada’s water pipeline.
Peehee Mu'huh, Nevada - On Thursday, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department issued a final warning to Indigenous land defenders at Thacker Pass. Members of law enforcement are demanding that the land defenders vacate a service road leading into the lithium mining operation. The Indigenous land defenders have erected a tipi on a proposed water line, set to feed lithium development at the rate of 500,000 gallons for every ton of lithium processed. Dorece Sam, an enrolled member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, spoke during a Facebook livestream on Friday, saying “Mother’s Day is coming up. This here is our mother - Mother Earth, and we want to protect her.
Up until now, modern society has largely depended on oil and coal for our energy supply. Virtually all reputable scientists now agree that climate change is real and the science behind it is sound. It is a naturally occurring phenomena which mankind has accelerated due to capitalism and consumerism. Almost every civilized country on the planet has entered into the Paris Agreement with the combined goal of lowering carbon emissions 45% by the year 2030. On paper, this all sounds wonderful. The burning fossil fuels for energy and the production of plastic, and production of automobiles which rely on gasoline for combustion engines; are both notorious contributors to the carbon emission problem.
The Peruvian coup regime remains entrenched in power more than four months after the parliamentary coup that ousted democratically elected President Pedro Castillo. On April 10th, the de facto Minister of Energy and Mines Óscar Vera announced the coup government would grant permits to Macusani Yellowcake , subsidiary of Canadian mining company Plateau Energy Metals, which as of 2021 is a subsidiary of American Lithium in the Macusani town of the Puno region. This comes in the wake of the anti-coup protests that placed lithium as one of the main resources the coup government, serving its transnational corporate interests, would move swiftly to privatize.
Mexico’s leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) organized a massive rally in the heart of the capital, honoring the anniversary of the country’s nationalization of its oil reserves and expropriation of foreign corporations. AMLO also used the demonstration as an opportunity to publicly condemn US politicians who have proposed militarily invading Mexico to combat drug trafficking. “We remind those hypocritical and irresponsible politicians that Mexico is an independent and free country, not a colony or a protectorate of the United States!” López Obrador declared. “They can threaten us with committing some kind of abuse, but we will never, ever allow them to violate our sovereignty and trample on the dignity of our homeland!” he asserted.
It is this democracy that must be defended now: not, as media outlets would have you believe, from AMLO, but from those who would weaponize the electoral issue to justify a disastrous foreign intervention, in whatever form it might ultimately take. Although the 4T has not fulfilled everyone’s expectations, it has, in four years, created a governing movement that is taking control of its energy resources (including the nationalization of lithium) and is adopting a role of regional leadership in Latin America: two sins the United States has not historically forgiven anywhere.
Designing A US Transit System With Smaller, Fewer Cars Could Cut Lithium Demand And Mining Harms Of EV
One of the less sustainable aspects of the drive to transition from gas to electric vehicles (EVs) is that building them requires metals and minerals that must be mined from the Earth, an activity that raises both ecological and environmental justice concerns. In fact, a new report from the Climate and Community Project and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), found that, if current trends for EV demand hold through 2050, the U.S. alone will require three times the amount of lithium that is now available on the market globally. However, replacing every gas-powered car with an EV isn’t the only way to decarbonize transit. Alternative steps including designing a less car-intensive transportation system, reducing the size of EV batteries and encouraging lithium recycling could reduce lithium demand by up to 92 percent from the worst-case scenario, according to The Guardian.
Nevada - The Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in northern Nevada is headed back to Federal Court on January 5th as the lawsuits against the project near completion, but project opponents are raising the alarm that Lithium Nevada Corporation has already begun work on the proposed mine. Lithium Nevada’s workers at Thacker Pass have begun digging test pits, bore holes, dumping gravel, building fencing, and installing security cameras where Native Americans often conduct ceremonies. Lithium Nevada also conducted “bulk sampling” earlier this year, and may be planning to dig dozens of new test pits across Thacker Pass. They are claiming this work is legal under previous permits issued over a decade ago. But tribes and mine opponents, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, disagree.
Salton Sea, California - An October storm of noxious dust sweeps across the desert, turning the sky sepia and choking out residents. Like water bodies across the West, the 340-square-mile saline lake known as the Salton Sea is drying up as drought, fueled by climate change, further dwindles its inflow from the Colorado River basin. As the lake evaporates, its solution of pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals grows more concentrated. Winds whip the hazardous lakebed dust into the air, and more children here than anywhere else in California visit emergency rooms or are hospitalized with asthma-related illnesses. It’s an environmental disaster with a decades-long history.