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Lithium Mine Breaks Ground in Nevada

A Nevada lithium mine that could become the largest in the U.S. broke ground late last week, bringing the U.S. a step closer to increasing its critical minerals supply, according to E&E News’ GREENWIRE (subscription).

What’s going on: “[S]ite preparation, geotechnical drilling, water pipeline development and associated infrastructure started [last] week” at the Thacker Pass project, which is being jointly developed by Lithium Americas Corp. and General Motors Co. Bechtel Corp. is working on the mine’s first phase.

Why it’s important: Nevada is home to the only other lithium mine in the U.S., the Silver Peak mine, whose operator recently announced plans to double production by 2025 to keep up with growing electric-vehicle demand.

  • Thacker Pass “is part of a surge of projects that could shift the Silver State toward a lithium economy and have far-reaching implications for … the state’s and the nation’s economy…”
  • Another undertaking is Australian company Ioneer Ltd.’s Rhyolite Ridge, a lithium-boron mine in Nevada’s southwest that is under federal review. Ford Motor Co. has said it plans to obtain lithium carbonate from the project if it moves forward.
  • Rhyolite developers have signed a deal to supply lithium carbonate to the joint Toyota Motor Corp.–Panasonic Holdings Corp. venture Prime Planet Energy & Solutions Inc., a battery manufacturer.

A bipartisan issue: Lithium development has strong support from both major political parties.

  • As Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, told the publication, “Democrats and Republicans are both pro-development in this state and always have been.”
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