US judge won’t block huge lithium mine on Nevada-Oregon line

Lithium sample from McDermitt Caldera

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge has sided again with the Biden administration and a Canadian-based mining company in a fight with environmentalists and tribal leaders trying to block a huge lithium mine in Nevada near the Oregon line.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno denied the opponents’ request Friday for an emergency injunction to prohibit any work at the largest known lithium deposit in the nation until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can hear their latest appeal.

Her ruling clears the way for Lithium Americas’ subsidiary Lithium Nevada to begin construction as early as next week at the mine they say would speed production of raw materials for electric vehicle batteries critical to combatting climate change.

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Opponents say the mine would destroy key wildlife habitat and sacred cultural treasures, harm groundwater and pollute the air. They argued in their request for an emergency court order last week that without it, the developer would begin to rip up a high-desert sea of sagebrush that holds some of the most critical habitat still intact for the dwindling sage grouse in the West.

Friday’s ruling marks the third time in two years Du has refused to grant injunctions sought by the conservationists, Native American tribes and a Nevada rancher who lives near the mine.

She said she denied the latest request because she concluded the plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail on an appeal challenging her Feb. 6 ruling that found the U.S. Bureau of Land Management complied with federal law — with one possible exception — when it approved the mining plans in January 2021.

Du said in Friday’s 11-page ruling that she understood when she issued her original decision earlier this month that it meant “Lithium Nevada could start construction on the project, and thus disrupt the sagebrush ecosystem within the project area.”

“The court indeed expects that Lithium Nevada unfortunately will soon begin ripping out sage brush that will not grow back for a very long time,” she wrote.

But “plaintiffs have failed to make a clear showing of entitlement to the extraordinary remedy of an injunction pending appeal,” she said.


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