Can America Get The Lithium Needed for EVs Without Polluting Native & Other Small Communities?

The Economist February 19th-February 25th 2022|United States|”America’s next mining boom” “Between a rock and a hard place” “Is mining in the name of clean energy doomed to repeat past mistakes?” Orovada, Nevada


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Image from lithiumamericas.com



America’s goal to have “half of all cars sold in 2030 to be electric and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050” and even to protect national security is driving the demand for minerals used in batteries and other “clean-energy technologies.” Demand is predicted to increase 40 fold for lithium by 2040 and 20 fold for copper and nickel. In America, high lithium deposits are found in the Montana Mountains-Humboldt County, Nevada.


As with mines in the past, mostly located west of the Mississippi River, there are many concerns about the process of extracting minerals from the earth including the potential to pollute the air, pollute the water supply and to harm the local habitat. Compared to the past though, “today, mining companies have to study how their activities would affect the environment and clean up by themselves.”


Residents in Humboldt County’s Orovada are understandably concerned because the Federal government owns much of the land that could be mined. “Gina Amato, a local farmer, comments…’We’re still not convinced this is in our best interest…we do very much feel that we are the sacrificial lamb for greater good.”


The stakeholders in this discussion are diverse. Can “conservationists, energy companies, ranchers and tribal nations find an agreeable path forward? The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees any mining on Federal lands that are typically “found within 35 miles of Native American reservations” and as such BLM must be “revising the consultation process by involving more tribes earlier…” Also other local communities want a “seat at the table.”


Lithium Americas, “has plans to build a mine and processing plant at Thacker Pass” that would be “America’s biggest lithium mine” and is negotiating with Orovada.” It is, for Orovada, the hope of a better mining process in exchange for the promise of 300 jobs and the “offer [by LA] to build the town a new school.”