RENO — Conservationists suing a federal agency over approval of a mine at the largest known U.S. deposit of lithium go before a judge Wednesday in search of an emergency court order to block excavations they say would disturb sacred tribal burial grounds near the Nevada-Oregon line.
Overshadowed by conflict at a lithium mine planned north of Las Vegas where the government intends to declare a rare wildflower threatened or endangered, Lithium Nevada Corp.’s proposed Thacker Pass mine is emerging as a potentially bigger battleground in the debate over environmental trade-offs tied to President Biden’s push for renewable energy.
Lithium is a key component in electric vehicle batteries.
Lawyers for the mine, the Bureau of Land Management and four conservation groups go before U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno Tuesday. The critics say the federal agency violated environmental laws in a December rush to approve the mine in the final days of the Trump administration.
The project recently won an unexpected endorsement from a respected, longtime environmental watchdog of mining operations in Nevada who concluded “the impacts from this mine are relatively benign.”
“The environmental value of this lithium producing mine, however, is enormous,” said Glenn Miller, a retired professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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