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).


Proposed mine site at left

According to the Final EIS the mine will import up to 680,494 tons of sulfur a year, this equates to about 75 semi loads a day. (Read from the Final EIS here).  A full list of imported chemicals planned to be imported to Thacker Pass is here.

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).

Tesla asserts they have invented a new process to extract lithium out of Clay.  This process avoids using the polluting sulfuric acid (read here).   It is concerning that BLM is proceeding with Lithium Nevada's project application when it appears clean, sustainable processes are being developed.  BLM's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) can be Read Here... 

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

This website seeks to explain what is really proposed at Thacker Pass.

Most Lithium mines in South America involve pumping saltwater brine on 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 must contain 6% lithium oxide to be suitable for processing into lithium carbonate.  Miners are able to separate the spodumene for further processing.

Our community has been selected for a new process seeking to extract lithium from clay; which is lower grade ore than spodumene.  According to the plan of operations the ore that will be processed at Thacker Pass will be up to 4000ppm (.4%) in the smectite clay layer and up to 9000 ppm in the lower illite clay layer.  According to The Plan of Operations they will be processing ore as poor of grade as 2000 ppm (0.2%) (the cuttoff grade see here)   



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, 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. 

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 sheets 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.

Radioactive Material

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 materials 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." (Final EIS page 4-115)(emphasis added)" READ HERE

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? 

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?  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.

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.

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. 

There have been various stories in the press claiming Thacker Pass will be "carbon neutral" these claims appear to be based on them burning sulfur, and selling electricity.   You can read press stories Here, and Here.  Keep in mind the very reason sulfur is removed is SO WE DON'T BURN IT, in our cars, due to the pollution it causes.  While burning sulfur cannot produce carbon; burning sulfur to create acid removes oxygen from the air; increasing the percent of carbon concentrations.  Moreover the rest of the mine will produce significant carbon emissions.

The EIS does not claim that Thacker Pass will be carbon neutral instead it clarifies that "carbon neutral" is a "long term goal" READ HERE

Indeed the Final EIS indicates Thacker Pass will have massive carbon emissions 132,678 tons at the mine and another 20,025 tons in transport emissions READ HERE.  This means total carbon emissions would be roughly 152,703 tons per year in phase 2.  According to the above citation in the FEIS the mine would produce 66,000 tons of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent per year in phase 2.  This means that this mine would generate roughly 2.3 tons of carbon emissions for every ton of lithium produced.

The FEIS also notes 11 million tons of earth will have to be mined in order to generate the 66,000 tons of Lithium Carbonate equivalent. 

Is Thacker Pass even Feasible Long Term?

Massive amounts of Sulfur for Sulfuric Acid are required to mine this clay 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?

Foreign Ownership

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 sold majority interest in their South American mine, still under development, to Ganfeng Lithium,  (Click Here To Read).