Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone tribal members protest Thacker Pass lithium mine

Audio: an interview with tribal member Daranda Hinckey

In late March of 2021, members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shosone tribe protest the proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada - photo: Daranda Hinckey

On January 15 of this year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved the nation’s second lithium mine roughly 70 miles north of Winnemucca, Nevada, the Thacker Pass project. Since then, for 83 days as of this writing, protestors have maintained an encampment at the proposed mine site, and this Saturday, April 10, members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe and other tribes will gather in protest at Thacker Pass. 

Anti-mine activists announced in a press release that on Monday the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribal Council formally voted to cancel a Project Engagement Agreement with mining company Lithium Nevada. According to protestors, the tribe reportedly cited threats to land, water, wildlife, hunting and gathering areas, and sacred sites.

The press release also stated that the Tribal Council has agreed to initiate a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for violations of federal law in permitting the Thacker Pass lithium mine project to proceed. 

The Ally is working to verify that the Tribal Council actually took those actions, but has yet to hear back from tribal chair Maxine Redstar and other inquiries.

Canadian developer Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Lithium Americas, has put forward a plan that they say will make for a carbon-neutral, open-pit mine operation in service to the larger green economy hungry for lithium. The company says the Thacker Pass mine will greatly enhance the nation’s domestic ability to meet the fast-growing lithium demand for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage systems, large and small. 

According to Lithium Nevada, the mine is expected to provide as many as 1,000 jobs during construction and 300 ongoing jobs for the 46-year life of the project. 

Daranda Hinckey is a Fort McDermitt tribal member who said she spent time researching the mine and the demand for lithium and decided to take direct action.

“From an environmental standpoint, I was like, this is not good for the land. It’s not good for the water. And it’s hard because I know everybody in the whole world needs lithium for the new batteries and the new cars and things like that and solar panels. So it’s hard, it’s really hard. I’m really hoping to push for maybe like just consuming less and letting people know like, do we need a new car every year? Do we need a new phone every year?” Hinckey said.

We spoke with Daranda Hinckey by phone.

Music credits as reported to the Public Radio Exchange, in order of appearance:

Song: Weightless
Artist: Marconi Union
Album: Weightless
Label: Just Music
Date: 2016
Duration: 4:06

Song: Weightless Part 2
Artist: Marconi Union
Album: Weightless
Label: Just Music
Date: 2016
Duration: 4:08

Song: Weightless Part 3
Artist: Marconi Union
Album: Weightless
Label: Just Music
Date: 2016
Duration: 3:23

Song: Weightless Part 5
Artist: Marconi Union
Album: Weightless
Label: Just Music
Date: 2016
Duration: 2:59