Permits for $1.3 billion Lithium Nevada mining project expected by Q1 2021 |

Permits for $1.3 billion Lithium Nevada mining project expected by Q1 2021

NNBW staff report
The project site is located in northern Humboldt County, roughly 50 miles north-northwest of Winnemucca.
Courtesy Photo: Lithium Nevada

RENO, Nev. — Lithium Nevada’s parent company, Lithium Americas, recently published third quarter results and updates, stating that permitting on the massive Thacker Pass lithium mining project in rural Northern Nevada continues as planned.

According to a Nov. 16 press release outlining the company’s third quarter results, the project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement was released this past summer by the Bureau of Land Management, with the 45-day public comment period completed in September 2020.

The company expects to receive all major permits by March 2021 (end of first quarter). 

In a nutshell, the roughly $1.3 billion project entails the manufacturing of high purity lithium chemicals as a byproduct of mineral processing near Thacker Pass in northern Humboldt County near Orovada; the project site is located roughly 50 miles north-northwest of Winnemucca.

The company refers to Thacker Pass as “the largest known lithium resource in the United States and the next large scale lithium mine.”

“The project will be developed as an open-pit mining operation using conventional continuous mining equipment. Given the soft nature of the deposit, minimal blasting and crushing is anticipated,” according to the company’s project page. “… With the reliance on sulfuric acid, the project will involve the construction of a conventional sulfuric acid plant at site. The sulfuric acid plant will convert molten sulfur into low-cost sulfuric acid reducing transportation costs and providing a low-cost source of power.

“In addition, the sulfuric acid plant contemplates a co-generation facility, which the PFS assumes will provide enough carbon-free electricity to power the entire project with excess power being sold to the grid.

In preparation of project construction, the company’s process testing facility in Reno continues to operate with COVID-19 protocols in place, according to the Nov. 16 report; as of Sept. 30, the facility has produced over 15,000 kg of high-quality lithium sulphate.

If permits are received by early 2021, full-scale construction would begin later in the year, with the company projecting the third quarter of 2022 as an estimated target date to start production.

Lithium Nevada staff collect bulk samples from the project site last summer.
Courtesy Photo: Lithium Nevada

From a financial standpoint, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development in September approved nearly $9 million in tax abatements for the project, which are expected to be granted for the first phase of the construction period.

Per the company’s GOED application, the project expects to bring in more than $65.8 million in new local and state tax revenue and $9,198,147 in indirect taxes, for a total of just over $75 million.

It says it plans to hire 113 people at an average wage of $37.84, with an expected $103 million spent on equipment by year two of operation; 136 people are expected to be hired by year five of operation, and 265 people after 10 years. Additionally, GOED estimates the Thacker Pass project will create more than 2,800 construction jobs.

According to previous reports, the proposed project will have a life expectancy of approximately 41 years; however, more recent updates published on the company’s project page indicate a mine life of 46 years.

“Based on discussions with potential customers and joint venture partners, the company is continuing to assess changes to the parameters of its definitive feasibility study to target a higher production capacity than the 20,000 tonnes per annum of lithium carbonate equivalent and revised product mix,” according to the Nov. 16 press release. “The company expects to provide an update on the definitive feasibility study in early 2021.”

The “definitive feasibility study” is a technical document developed by Lithium Nevada and consultants that describes the mining, chemical process, equipment, product and quality, costs and economic performance of the project under an assumed production capacity.

The company continues to explore financing operations, including the possibility of a joint venture partnership. 

The project is operated by Reno-based Lithium Nevada Corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vancouver, Canada-based Lithium Americas Corporation.

The demand for lithium is expected to grow more than 500% by 2025. The Thacker Pass mine has the potential to produce approximately 25% of global demand.

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.