Lithium Nevada Corp’s CEO explains the benefits of the Thacker Pass Lithium Project

Thacker Pass. Photo courtesy of Lithium Americas

Opinion

“America must lead the critical industries that produce and deploy clean technologies.” 

“Prioritize American workers.”

“Together, we can seize the opportunity to drive prosperity, create jobs and build the clean energy economy of tomorrow.”

These are the bold statements President Biden and his administration announced on Earth Day – April 22, 2021. Lithium Americas wholeheartedly supports these goals and is proud to be an enabler of this policy. 

To support the U.S. target to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 50 to 52 percent by 2030, America will need much more lithium than it currently produces. World demand for lithium is currently about 350,000 tons per year. However, demand for lithium is anticipated to triple over the next four years, driven in part by the global electrification of transportation, as lithium is a key element in electric vehicle batteries.  

Currently, only one percent of the global lithium supply is produced in the U.S., with the majority of processing done in China. Building a domestic lithium battery supply chain will create good-paying jobs, reduce America’s overall carbon footprint, and support autoworkers in building modern, efficient electric vehicles.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm put it bluntly in a recent news interview (PBS Newshour, April 1, 2021):

“We are going to manufacture the means to our energy security in this country, to our national security in this country…Even the guts to the batteries that are in the electric vehicles, they’ve got critical materials in them that we have in this country, but we are allowing other countries to corner the market on those materials.” 

The Thacker Pass project in Nevada is uniquely positioned to play a key role in this American-made lithium supply chain solution critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Thacker Pass has the potential to increase U.S. lithium supply over 10-fold to meet most, if not all, expected domestic demand.

Nevada could become a world leader in specialty lithium chemicals production, a champion in the fight to reduce America’s carbon footprint and a leader in the critical industries that produce and deploy clean technologies. Thacker Pass stands to put hundreds of jobless Nevadans back to work and strengthen communities. 

Clearly, the development of Thacker Pass is in the Nation’s interest.

After 10 years of data collection, environmental studies, geologic exploration, technological innovation, community engagement, and an exhaustive permitting process with state and federal authorities, Thacker Pass is projected to commence construction later this year after essential permits are received.    

We have listened carefully to the community and are taking additional steps to be good neighbors and a part of Humboldt County for many decades to come.

We will provide as many as 300 family-supporting jobs, creating opportunities for rural Humboldt County youth to stay and thrive in the communities where their parents and grandparents established deep roots. 

We are committed to working with local partners to equip residents with the right skills to take advantage of job opportunities. 

We will contribute taxes and our local procurement policies will bring additional economic benefits to the surrounding communities. 

We are focused on exceeding all the relevant state and federal safety and environmental laws we are obligated to comply with, not just meeting them. 

We will build away from sensitive species, as purposefully designed and approved in our final Environmental Impact Statement.

We are avoiding mining in the Montana Mountains to protect its sagebrush habitat and important cultural areas, despite false claims that we are “blowing up mountains”. 

The plant has been designed to use waste heat to generate carbon-free power for our operation. 

We will repeatedly recirculate the water used in processing our ore to minimize our water needs. 

Thacker Pass has committed to using the best available technology to limit air emissions. 

The mined pit will be backfilled with sand and rock that does not contain valuable lithium metal and will be revegetated as soon as possible, instead of waiting to the end of the mine life to begin reclamation.   

We will always strive to earn people’s trust and support through our actions as a responsible operator and charitable member of the community.  

After a decade of talking, meeting, and planning, we are now on the cusp of construction. It is only to be expected that fellow Nevadans would want more information about our path forward. We are planning a range of upcoming engagement opportunities with the communities of Northern Nevada. 

As President Biden said recently, “This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”  Together, we will help position American workers and industry to do just that.  


Alexi Zawadzki is the CEO of Lithium Nevada.


The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of the Sierra Nevada Ally. Our newsroom remains entirely independent of our opinion page. Published opinions further public conversation to fulfill our civic responsibility to challenge authority, act independently of corporate or political influence, and invite dissent.