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News > U.S.

Native Americans Concern Over Impact of US Largest Lithium Mine

  • A sign in Humboldt County, Nevada, U.S., July 11, 2022.

    A sign in Humboldt County, Nevada, U.S., July 11, 2022. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 11 July 2022

The mine has become a hotspot of controversy since "Lithium Americas" received a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in January 2021.

Standing on the entrance of the planned Thacker Pass lithium mine in the remote north of Nevada, the largest known lithium deposit in the United States, Myron Smart, a Native American tribe member, expressed his great concern over the harm the mine would bring to his homeland and culture.


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"Thacker Pass is sacred to our people. Some of our ancestors were massacred in Thacker Pass," the 59-year-old Native American said, pointing to the direction where the massacre happened in 1865.

The planned Thacker Pass lithium mine has drawn strong resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and local ranchers. The proposed project, one of the largest in the world, is located in Humboldt County, about 25 miles from the Nevada-Oregon border.

"The name for Thacker Pass in our language is Peehee mu'huh, which in English, translates to 'rotten moon.' Peehee mu'huh was named so because our ancestors were massacred there by U.S. soldiers in 1865 while our hunters were away," said Smart, a descendant of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe.

He said local Indian tribes would never desecrate these places and requested their sacred sites be afforded respect, voicing strong protest against building the lithium mine on the site.

"Thacker Pass is essential to the survival of our traditions. Our traditions are tied to the land. When our land is destroyed, our traditions are destroyed," he said.

The mine has become a hotspot of controversy since Lithium Americas, the mining company developing the mine site, received a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in January 2021. Soon after the permit was issued, several lawsuits were filed in federal court seeking to slow or halt the project.

The lawsuits claim that the land is sacred ground for American Indians and argue that the project will damage the local environment. Some protesters have been camping out near the project site. People of Red Mountain, a group of Fort McDermitt tribal descendants, is among several tribes and Native American organizations opposing the Thacker Pass mine project.

"The mine will harm our traditional land, significant cultural sites, water, air, and wildlife," said Doranda Hinkey, a member of People of Red Mountain,. The 24-year-old said local tribes have not been properly consulted about the potential impacts to their sacred ground, although the Thacker Pass mine would be built on their traditional lands.

Noting the water usage is very important to local tribes, Hinkey said the amount of water the project plans to take from the mine is "very concerning." In addition to environmental concerns, Thacker Pass is sacred to our people. Thacker Pass is a spiritually powerful place that has lots of stories, and is of cultural importance to the tribes. 

"We are also concerned about some social aspects of the project such as man camps, increase of economy, housing and what kind of people are brought here... Fighting climate change cannot be used as yet another excuse to destroy native land," Hinked pointed out.

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