Today, an international working group of individuals from around the world who are directly facing the effects of lithium extraction or are a part of organizations working alongside these frontline communities, have released a statement in support of the directly affected communities of the proposed Thacker Pass lithium mine. They are demanding that all ground-breaking at the Thacker Pass mine site be halted and that the affected communities be treated with full right to withhold consent for the mine.
The international YLNM lithium group is composed of people from places in Chile, Serbia, Portugal, Nevada, California, Australia, Spain, and the UK who are facing the negative repercussions of existing lithium mining or who are fighting proposed lithium mines threatening to devastate their communities, cultural resources, and ecosystems. It is from this place of first hand experience of the harms associated with lithium mining that they internationally demand for ground-breaking operations to be halted at Thacker Pass and for the affected communities to be treated with complete right to withhold consent for the mine.
Ramón M. Balcázar is one of the members of the YLNM network, who works at the Plurinational Observatory of Salares Andinos in protecting Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia’s salt flats from lithium extraction: “As we can see in Nevada, the expansion of lithium mining reproduces colonialism not only in Latin America but also in stolen lands in so-called developed countries. If this is the cost of having electric cars for the most polluting countries of the world, maybe we need to find other ways for clean and just mobitly, and those ways are probably beyond green capitalism.”
Prior to and after the Record of Decision on the Thacker Pass mine by the Bureau of Land Management in January 2021, large numbers of individuals from the various affected communities–such as the People of Red Mountain, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, the Burns Paiute Tribe, and the agricultural communities within Orovada and Kings River Valley–have been loudly voicing opposition. Members from these multiple frontline communities that will be directly and significantly harmed by the Thacker Pass Lithium mine have been fighting to prevent its construction through various peaceful avenues.
One of these forces of community resistance is the Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu, or the People of Red Mountain, which is a group of Fort McDermitt tribal descendants who formed specifically to oppose the Thacker Pass mine and other lithium projects threatening their homelands. As Deland Hinkey from the group states, “Peehee Mu’huh is sacred land and we must protect sacred land. It is not too late for change. We all need to realize that we only have one Earth and she must be protected. Stop corporations like Lithium Nevada, who want to destroy Mother Earth for profit…Let’s Protect Peehee Mu’huh.”
Folks from the agricultural communities next to the mine have also been clear in voicing the harms the mine will cause them. As one of these community members, Jean Williams, in Orovada, NV states, “this mine at Thacker Pass is not being permitted for the well being of our farming community. The process they wish to use is questionable. The amount of sulfur to be brought in for processing has the potential for permanent harm to crops and cattle production. Our water may disappear with no guarantee from the mine to make it right.”
Despite their and other community members’ efforts, and the clear community un-consent for the mine, it was permitted by the Bureau of Land Management in a fast-tracked manner that neglected proper Tribal consultation and public process. The mine is currently on the brink of construction, with many members from affected communities actively still resisting it, as well as active litigation in opposition to the mine’s permitting from a local rancher, conservation groups, two federally recognized Tribes, and the Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu. It is still undetermined precisely when the mining company, Lithium Nevada, will be breaking ground, but they have stated intent to do so in the near future.
The international working group’s statement of solidarity and demand for the rights of the communities affected by the Thacker Pass mine was echoed by over a dozen other international organizations and individuals who also signed on to the demands in the statement. The sentiment of solidarity with those on Thacker Pass’s frontlines is global beyond the YLNM network.
In a time where proponents of the mine largely center their arguments around domestic production of lithium and preventing “outsourcing” of the harms of mining it onto other nations, the statement coming directly from those affected by lithium mining in these other nations speaks volumes in pushing back this narrative. It states loud and clear that communities, no matter where they are located, should hold complete right to withhold consent for mines that directly affect them, their cultural resources, sacred sites, water, land, and air. The YLNM lithium network and the greater global voices’ sweeping support and solidarity for those harmed by the Thacker Pass mine sends the message that a win for the community members fighting the Thacker Pass mine is a win for communities directly affected by lithium mining everywhere.
“Our planet is home to an astonishing multitude of plant, animal, human communities and living environments. Toxic and exploitative extractivist system keeps trying to separate us from our communities and Nature, and plunges us deeper into climate and socio-ecological chaos that it caused in the first place. A true and just transformation will be led by communities and imbued by our knowledge to meet the specific needs and realities of the places we inhabit and care for. Through this work in our respective places, we will be able to join paths towards regenerating the Earth community of justice and solidarity,” Mirko Nikolić from the YLNM-Lithium Group