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$1.3 billion Lithium Nevada project on track for 2020 milestones

Public comment sought on Environmental Impact Statement; deadline is Feb. 20

Michelle Cook

Nevada News Group

Lithium Nevada Corp. is in the process of designing and permitting the Thacker Pass project located about 60 miles northwest of Winnemucca in Humboldt County, near Orovada.
Courtesy Lithium Nevada

WINNEMUCCA, Nev. — Lithium Nevada announced Jan. 21 the publication of the Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its $1.3 billion Thacker Pass lithium claystone project near Orovada.

The NOI formally commences the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) EIS preparation and public engagement process by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The NEPA process is designed to help public officials complete permitting decisions that are protective of the environment and includes a public engagement process.

The 12-month NEPA period is scheduled to include the BLM’s Record of Decision (ROD), representing the BLM’s final decision on Lithium Nevada’s application for an approved Plan of Operations.

In October 2019, the BLM engaged ICF Jones & Stokes, Inc., an experienced NEPA consultant, to prepare the EIS.

The BLM, Lithium Nevada and ICF since have entered into Memorandums of Understanding that define the timeline and support the overall management of the EIS-development process.

The Thacker Pass project is operated by Reno-based Lithium Nevada Corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vancouver, Canada-based Lithium Americas Corporation. The project is approximately 17 miles northwest of Orovada and 54 miles north-northwest of Winnemucca.

According to previous reports, should everything go through as planned, the company projects operations will create approximately 1,000 jobs during construction of $1.3 billion project and will employ more than 285 people upon completion.

The proposed project will have a life expectancy of approximately 41 years. 

The publication of the NOI follows the final Plan of Operations, which was accepted by the BLM in September 2019.

The Plan of Operations includes production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, lithium metal (up to 60,000 tons per annum (tpa) of lithium carbonate equivalent (“LCE”)), and battery manufacturing.

Lithium Nevada expects production capacity targets in Phase 1 of approximately 20,000 tpa of battery-quality lithium hydroxide, in addition to approximately 2,000 tpa of battery-quality lithium carbonate. 

The company’s engagement with government, the Fort McDermitt Tribe and local stakeholders is planned to continue over the next year in anticipation of the ROD being issued by early 2021. The ROD will include the agency’s decision, alternatives considered and the plans for mitigation and monitoring, if required.

According to Lithium Nevada plans, the Thacker Pass project is designed to be environmentally sustainable and friendly.

“Our goal is to produce the first carbon neutral lithium products, representing an innovative benchmark in the industry,” commented Alexi Zawadzki, CEO of Lithium Nevada. “Our vision is for a more sustainable battery supply chain in the US, with cathode and cell manufacturing located in close proximity to the proposed Thacker Pass mine site.”

The lithium market has been a relatively non-descript industry until recently. But with the development of electric vehicles, the demand for lithium batteries has soared.

The demand for lithium is expected to grow more than 500% by 2025. The mine has the potential to produce approximately 25% of global demand with a 40 plus year lifespan.

Lithium is also on the list of critical minerals published in May of 2018. The report accompanying the list concludes that the demand for lithium used in rechargeable batteries, especially for electric vehicles, will continue to grow.

BLM seeks public comment

The BLM is seeking public input as it initiates the EIS process to analyze Lithium Nevada’s Thacker Pass Plan of Operations and Reclamation Plan and the Thacker North-South Exploration Plan of Operations and Reclamation Plan.

The public is invited to submit comments in writing, and to attend one of the two public open-house meetings — 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the Winnemucca Convention Center at 50 W. Winnemucca Blvd.; and 5-7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Orovada Community Center, at East Kings River Highway.

Comment forms will be available for input during these meetings.

You can also submit comments online through the BLM ePlanning website; by email at wfoweb@blm.gov with ‘Thacker Pass EIS (Loda)” in the subject line; or by mail to Ken Loda, project lead, at the Winnemucca District Office, Humboldt River Field Office, 5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd., Winnemucca, NV 89445.

Comments must be received by Feb. 20. For more information, contact Ken Loda at 775-632-1539.