The Impacts of Thacker Pass Mine

Hundreds of Tons of Sulfur (Waste from Oil Refineries) will be trucked in and Burned Every Day at the mine site.

This in turn will produce thousands of tons of Sulfuric acid every day, up to 5800 tons a day in Phase 2 (click here to read from mine plan).

Property values will plummet if the stench from the plant and tailings pile extends beyond the mine.

 

Proposed mine site at left

The weight of sulfur within sulfuric acid is 32.693% of the total weight. Hence, to generate 5800 tons of sulfuric acid will require burning 1896 tons (3,792,000 pounds) of sulfur a day.   A semi can haul about 50,000 pounds (25 ton).   

 

Therefore, in phase 2 they will import roughly 75 semi loads of sulfur a day, and burn it.

The sulfur chemical residue (now in various chemical compounds) from all this processing will then be dumped on the tailings pile (millions of tons of chemicals over the life of the mine).

And Lithium Nevada claims this will not create a massive stink!

BLM's Draft Environmental impact statement is out... Click Here to Read... 

 

Check back here for documents, and how to get involved, we are continually working to add content to keep the community informed.

Our community has seen Lithium Nevada's brochures, and the public relations teams with the complex flow charts.  Most of us were left scratching our head as to what was really going to happen.  This website seeks to explain what is really proposed.

Most Lithium mines in South America involve pumping saltwater brine on barren salt flats where the lithium slowly floats to the top, is skimmed off, and is then purified for use in batteries.

Most Lithium mines in Australia involve spodumene ore.   According to this datasheet  and this datasheet spodumene ore must contain 6% lithium oxide to be suitable for processing into lithium carbonate.

Our community has been selected to be the guinea pig for a new process seeking to extract lithium from clay; which is much lower grade ore than spodumene.  According to the plan of operations the ore that will be processed at Thacker Pass will range from 4000-9000 ppm (0.4-0.9%), according to The Plan of Operations they probably will be processing ore as poor of grade as 2000 ppm (0.2%) (see here)   Low grade ore means a lot more ore must be processed.  Everybody has been wondering why Lithium Nevada says all these trucks will be running up and down our roads.   IT TURNS OUT MOST OF THESE TRUCKS WILL BE HAULING CHEMICALS AND CHEMICAL ELEMENTS IN .... NOT LITHIUM OUT...IT APPEARS MOST OF THESE CHEMICALS AND CHEMICAL ELEMENTS ARE GOING TO BE LEFT ON OUR BLM PUBLIC LANDS IN VARIOUS CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS FOR ETERNITY!!!

Is it a mine or an Incinerator?

Due to the fact that burning sulfur in our cars, causes acid rain, smog and assorted health problems the government has mandated that sulfur be removed from fuel.  Due to this, refineries have massive amounts of sulfur piling up, refineries are desperate to get rid of this waste sulfur, here is an article on refinery sulfur and another here.

The Lithium mine plans on loading this sulfur (refinery waste) on rail cars, and shipping the sulfur, hundreds or thousands of miles to Winnemucca, Nevada, Then hauling it by truck to the mine site, where it will be burned and converted to enormous quantities of Sulfuric Acid on a daily basis. 

Sulfur in small quantities is useful for fertilizers and pesticides.   But as anybody who has put sulfur on their farm or garden knows it stinks really bad.   Imagine what hundreds of tons burned and dumped on the tailing pile every single day will smell like.  The problem  here is the massive quantities of imported sulfur.  Company representatives say elemental sulfur doesn't smell, this is technically true, but highly misleading.   Elemental Sulfur generally contains hydrogen sulfide which is toxic and smells in very small quantities.  Sulfur can react with other things which produces even more hydrogen sulfide.   This mine will be importing the sulfur in heated semis so it will arrive in liquid form called Molten Sulfur.  To read a material safety data sheet on Molten Sulfur CLICK HERE. and Here.  Remember the sulfur will not remain elemental sulfur, it will be burned which creates sulfur dioxide, sulfur trioxide and ultimately sulfuric acid.  

 

These are absolutely massive amounts of sulfur burned, it is difficult to believe that the plant will not stink, driving down property values and harming our health. 

Radioactive waste

Many of the mining claims originally associated with this mine were initially seeking uranium.  The Moonlight Mine, a few miles northwest of Thacker Pass was a Uranium Mine.  The USGS website site classes 3 deposits in Thacker Pass area as grade B deposits, the (second highest grade). For info on the Thacker Pass uranium prospect CLICK HERE.  There are abnormally high levels of Uranium throughout the area around the mine See Pole Creek Here, and Rock Creek Here.  The Moonlight mine is classed as a grade A deposit to view Moonlight deposit CLICK HERE

 

The EIS documents the potential for radioactive waste at the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine:

 

"Radiological hazards associated with operation of the project include potential exposure to Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM) due to processing of ore containing naturally occurring radionuclides, including naturally-occurring uranium. Baseline geochemical characterization indicates that radionuclides are elevated in some samples of materials including tailings and waste rock and ore, and there is the potential for leaching of radionuclides from tailings at concentrations exceeding threshold values......Multi-element analysis found that uranium was enriched above average crustal concentrations in the neutralization solids. Multi-element analysis also found that uranium was elevated in approximately fifty percent of the oxidized ore feed and gangue samples. Similar trends in element enrichment were observed in the unoxidized ore feed and unoxidized gangue samples.(Draft EIS page 4-105)(emphasis added)"

The EIS asserts that this radioactive waste will be contained, by a liner.   But what happens if this heavy radioactive waste concentrates at the bottom of the geomembrane liner and the liner fails?  Will our groundwater be contaminated with radiation?  What happens if heavy radioactive materials concentrate in tanks and are flushed out during cleaning, would people be exposed to harmful radiation?   What happens if gangue waste rock is used for pit backfill where uranium and other toxic materials will have direct contact with groundwater?

this will be a Major industrial site

This is a major industrial plant that will produce extremely large amounts of toxic chemicals.   We need to make sure that our voices are heard in the public process.  We need to know: What happens if there is a fire or explosion?  How far away will you be able to smell the plant?  Will the smell reach my property?  What happens if trucks containing chemicals overturn next to my home?  What happens if there is a flash flood; and mine waste is washed into Crowley Creek or Thacker Creek? ETC.

If the mine promises it will not stink up the community we need to insist those promises be binding in the permit processes so the community has recourse.

Anybody that has ever driven by a paper plant or oil field knows how bad it stinks, THIS IS SULFUR.   For this mine we are talking about extremely large amounts of sulfur that will be imported into our community every single day 365 days a year.

but isn't Thacker Pass mine Going to be Carbon Neutral?

According to their own "Plan of Operations" Lithium Nevada plans on burning 11,300 gallons of diesel at the mine site CLICK HERE TO READ.  This is more than a semi tanker of fuel every single day.  In addition, it appears that this figure doesn't include the enormous amount of fuel required to get all this sulfur from the refinery to the mine site.

Lithium Nevada's "carbon neutral" claim is based on them burning sulfur, and selling electricity.  The "carbon neutral" claim is a clever marketing gimmick --- burning sulfur can't produce carbon (it just produces other toxic chemicals).  Keep in mind the very reason sulfur is removed is SO WE DON'T BURN IT, in our cars.  While burning sulfur cannot produce carbon; the rest of the mine will produce significant carbon emissions.    

Is the act of burning sulfur and creating sulfuric acid carbon neutral?  If you define "carbon neutral" as just not adding carbon to the atmosphere, then yes.   However if one defines "carbon neutral" as not increasing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, then it clearly would not be.  Burning sulfur to create sulfuric acid removes oxygen from the atmosphere; this thins the atmosphere and thus increases the overall percentage of carbon in the atmosphere.

This project will contribute to the depletion of oxygen in the atmosphere, the impacts of oxygen depletion is discussed here.

Is Thacker Pass even Feasible Long Term?

Massive amounts of Sulfur for Sulfuric Acid are required to mine this low grade ore.  As is noted above there is currently large amounts of sulfur piling up at oil refineries, and refineries are desperate to get rid of it.  There is a large demand for sulfur for pesticides and fertilizer, but the supply has exceeded the demand, and sulfur is very cheap.   In the event people switch to electric vehicles oil refineries will have a lot less sulfur.  Therefore sulfur prices would likely spike.  Would this mine be feasible if sulfur costs spiked?

Is this going to be another boom and bust mine that buys local farms water hurting our local economy and then goes bust?  So then we don't have farming or mining?

Will china based Ganfeng Lithium Have a Role in this Mine in the Future?

Lithium Nevada is a subsidiary of Lithium Americas.   Lithium Americas is a Canada based company that is developing 2 mines.   One here at Thacker Pass, the other in South America (Argentina).   According to news reports Lithium Americas recently sold majority interest in their South American mine, still under development, to Ganfeng Lithium,  (Click Here To Read).  

According to Lithium Americas information materials CLICK HERE their largest shareholder is Ganfeng Lithium (a massive Chinese Lithium company) and Ganfeng holds a seat on Lithium Americas board as a result of their large ownership interest. 

The BLM EIS process is being rushed, because there is national concern about foreign control of "critical" minerals (among them lithium).   If the BLM is going to use this rushed process; We should insist the EIS mandates 100% of the lithium mined here is processed into batteries in the United States.  We are being promised, all these jobs, but once all the permits are granted, will the mine decide it is cheaper to ship lithium concentrate to China, to make the batteries there?  

If Lithium is shipped overseas for processing into batteries this is the exact opposite of the intent of the "critical minerals" policy.   If lithium is processed into batteries overseas we will lack the supply chain for these critical minerals, meaning if we a have a war or pandemic we would be dependent of foreign sources for lithium batteries. 

Mining and shipping overseas is the worst of both worlds, we have potential pollution from the mine in our community, but most of the jobs and the supply chain is overseas.  In that case we are better off to let other countries have the mess of the mine and maintain our lithium resources for future needs.

     

Has Lithium americas given ganfeng a security interest in Thacker Pass?

According to Lithium Americas June financial statement they have borrowed a substantial amount of money from Ganfeng and Bangchak.  "Company" is "Lithium Americas" all dollar figures are in thousands (add three zeros (000). The Cauchari-Olaroz Project is their South American Project.

 

"Credit Facility During the six months ended June 30, 2020, the Company drew $12,000 on its $205,000 senior credit facility, comprised of $7,800 from Ganfeng and $4,200 from BCP Innovation Pte Ltd. (“Bangchak”). The total drawn under the facility as at June 30, 2020, was $95,750. The credit facility has a term of six years from August 8, 2018, with an interest rate of 8.0% for the first three years that increases to 8.5% in year four, 9.0% in year five and 9.5% in year six. Repayments of borrowings made under the credit facility must start on August 8, 2022, being the fourth anniversary of the first drawdown date, in an amount equal to 75% of Minera Exar’s Free Cash Flow (as defined in the credit facility agreement). As security for the facility, the Company granted to the lenders a first priority security interest in all assets except those that represent its ownership interest in the Cauchari-Olaroz Project." (emphasis added) for complete financial statement click here (see page 12)

Does "All Assets" include Thacker Pass?

If LIthium Americas is unable to repay this loan will Ganfeng and Bangchak own Thacker Pass?

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