Reno, Nev. (AP) – A federal judge in Nevada has dealt another legal blow to Native American tribes trying to stop the construction of one of the world’s largest lithium mines.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du granted the government’s motion to dismiss their claims the mine was illegally constructed near the sacred site of an 1865 massacre along the Nevada-Oregon line.
But he said in last week’s order that the three tribes suing the Bureau of Land Management should get another chance to amend their complaint to prove that the agency failed to adequately consult with them in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act. Has been.
“Given that the Court has now agreed with the federal defendants twice (and) Plaintiffs have not changed their argument… the Court is skeptical that Plaintiffs can successfully amend this. But skepticism does not mean futility,” Du wrote on November 9.
He also noted that part of their case is still pending on appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which indicated last month that it was likely to hear oral arguments in February because the lithium Nevada mine at Thacker Pass has nearly 230 miles (370 km) are under construction. Northeast of Reno.
Du said in the earlier ruling the tribes had failed to prove that the project site was where more than two dozen of their ancestors were killed by U.S. cavalry on Sept. 12, 1865.
Their new ruling is the latest in a series that have overturned legal challenges to the mine on a variety of fronts, including claims by environmentalists that it would violate an 1872 mining law and threaten the lives of sage grouse, cutthroat trout and pronghorn antelope. Will destroy the habitat.
All have argued that the bureau violated several laws in its rush to approve the mine to help meet the skyrocketing demand for lithium used in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles.
Lithium Nevada officials said the $2.3 billion project is on schedule to begin production in late 2026. They say it is necessary to advance President Joe Biden’s clean energy agenda aimed at tackling climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
“We have dedicated more than a decade of community involvement and hard work to getting this project right, and the courts have vindicated the efforts of Lithium Americas and administrative agencies,” company spokesman Tim Crowley said in an email. Re-validated.” associated Press.
Du agreed with the government’s argument that the consultation was ongoing and therefore not open to legal challenge.
The tribes argued that this had to be completed before construction could begin.
Tribal lawyers wrote, “If agencies are left to define when consultation is ongoing and when consultation ends… then agencies will keep consultation open forever – even if construction consultation Destroy the items – so the agencies can never be sued.” In a brief recently filed with the 9th Circuit.
Will Falk, representing the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, said they are still considering whether to amend the complaint or focus on appeals by the Dec. 9 deadline due set .
“Despite this project being labeled ‘green,’ it causes the same harms to native people that mines always do,” Falk told the AP. “While climate change is a very real, existential threat, if government agencies are allowed to rush through the processes that allow them to fast-track destructive mining projects like Thacker Pass, the greater natural world and Much Native American culture would be destroyed. ,
The Paiutes call Thacker Pass “Pi Hi Muuh”, meaning “rotten moon.” They describe in oral history how Paiute hunters returned home in 1865 to find “elders, women, and children” killed and “disembodied and decaying.”
The Oregon-based Burns Paiute Tribe joined the Nevada tribes in the appeal. He says BLM’s consultation efforts with tribes were “filled with hidden information, misrepresentations, and outright lies.”
Scott Sonner, The Associated Press