Rancher sues BLM over lithium mine approval

The proposed lithium mine site at Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, Nevada - photo: Max Wilbert

On January 15, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management approved the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project in Humboldt County, Nevada. On February 11, 2021, Edward Bartell, a rancher who owns property above and below the proposed mine, filed a lengthy lawsuit in the United States District Court of Nevada in an effort to halt the mine’s development. The complaint alleges that the ROD violates Section 7 and Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act.

Section 7 of the ESA states that a federal agency must insure that any action it authorizes is not likely to jeopardize the existence of an endangered or threatened species resulting from the destruction or modification of their habitat. According to the lawsuit, there was a “failure to initiate formal consultation with respect to the ESA-listed species that inhabit streams within the project area, the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.”

The lawsuit states that if the approval were to move forward, the proposed project may result in the “take,” or harassing, harming or killing of an endangered species or their habitat without a valid incidental take statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a violation of Section 9 of the ESA.

Consequently, in the circumstances of the Thacker Pass Mine, the BLM is required to consult the FWS to consider the project’s potential impacts to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout’s sensitive habitats at Pole Creek and Crowley Creek, as well as the Greater Sage Grouse and migratory waterfowl species known to the area. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout was originally listed as endangered in 1970, before being reclassified in its current status of threatened in 1975.

Use the interactive map below to explore the proposed mine site’s location.



Aside from the concerns regarding the effects the mine will have on the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout’s habitats, the lawsuit alleges the proposed project will degrade water rights and adversely effect productivity of the private rangelands held and owned by Bartell Ranch. A number of additional complaints are contained within the lawsuit relating to the proposed project’s effects on air quality, visual resources and water quality due to groundwater contamination, among others.

The lawsuit claims that approval of the Thacker Pass Mine was based on a Final Environmental Impact Statement that was inaccurate, incomplete and contained misrepresented data. Therefore, the lawsuit asks the Court to suspend the ROD until the BLM completes the requested consultation procedures.

See the lawsuit and cover letter below.

Other Ally reporting on the Thacker Pass mine:

Lithium Nevada is on schedule to begin Thacker Pass construction in 2021, a carbon neutral mine

Thacker Pass Lithium Mine – Draft Environmental Impact Statement reaction

Thacker Pass Lithium mine approval draws around-the-clock protest – 
Activist questions if batteries will save the planet or cause more harm than good