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Company Eyes Massive Lithium Deposit On Public Lands In Nevada

An image showing a view of a lithium mine operation from space.
An aerial look at the Silver Peak, Nev. lithium mining operation. The project is currently the only operating lithium mine in the United States.

The nation’s largest known lithium deposit is here in the Mountain West. As demand for electric vehicles grows — and with it demand for lithium, used to make EV batteries — one company hopes to harvest the mineral from that deposit in Northern Nevada.

Lithium Nevada, the company behind the Thacker Pass project, said the deposit holds enough lithium to meet 25% of the world’s current demand. The company claims its proposed open-pit mine would provide 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent, ongoing positions in the areas north of rural Winnemucca.

Cattle rancher Jhona Bell, for one, has concerns.

“Well, it takes out a lot of our range, and it has a huge economic impact for us," she said. "Obviously you can’t run cattle where there’s a mine."

Bell said she’s also concerned about water usage, land reclamation and traffic.

Lithium has been designated a critical mineral by the Trump administration, and some analysts expect worldwide demand to triple by 2025.

The project would need approval from the Bureau of Land Management. The agency is taking public comment and drafting its initial environmental impact statement.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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