How much land must be sacrificed to feed our addiction to energy?

Mountaintop removal for lithium to go into electric vehicle batteries is ecocide, just like mountaintop removal for coal mining is.

Earlier this week, I visited the site of yet another planned open pit lithium mine that is threatening the Great Basin — this time, in the state of Oregon. This site, about 15 miles north of Thacker Pass, is vital habitat for the Lahontan cutthroat trout, sage grouse, and countless other species — and it would be completely destroyed if the mine is built.

Yes, global warming is a crisis, and yes, we must stop burning fossil fuels. But this is not the way forward. This is an addict seeking another hit. The “green” energy economy destroys the planet, same as the old fossil fuel energy economy. This project is another greenwashing lie, just as we wrote about in “Bright Green Lies.” If you want a primer, read that book and watch the film version of “Bright Green Lies” and Jeff Gibb’s “Planet of the Humans.”

In honor of the late Utah Phillips, I’ve listed the names and addresses of the people who run Jindalee Corporation on a previous Substack article.

To stay up to date and get involved, please visit Protect Thacker Pass and signup for our email updates.

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So we’re here at the site of the proposed HiTech Minerals / Jindalee Corporation lithium mine. This is the next lithium project coming to the McDermitt Caldera. We’re sitting here at the north end of the Caldera, so this big rim of mountains all the way around us, this is surrounding what is now a basin at the north end of the Caldera which collapsed; like Crater Lake is the Caldera of what was once Mount Mazama that then collapsed. Similarly, here we have this lowered down Caldera and in here is the lithium, all through the soils of this region. The mining company has already been doing some test drilling up in the hills up here, checking out how much lithium there is in the soil and gathering the data that they need to figure out if it’s economically feasible to do their project. Unfortunately I think it likely will be, although we’ll see. This project is likely at least several years behind the Thacker Pass lithium mine in terms of progress, probably more like three or four years behind, but it’s coming, and right now there’s a permitting process that they’re engaged in with the BLM office based in Vale, Oregon to try to get a permit for additional test drilling out here. They want to do test drilling for four or five years, I believe six or seven months out of the year, 24/7. And so they would stop in the winter time and in the early spring but other than that they would be drilling 24 hours a day, seven days a week out here with multiple drilling rigs operating at a time.

Right now, this area is not pristine as you can see right behind me. We’re on a road right now. This area has been grazed. There is some impact to this area, but this is still intact land. And what I was thinking of before I decided to pull out the camera and record this video is how the dominant culture has this sort of progressive escalation of exploitation. So first they’ll come into an area, and if it’s a forest they’ll cut down the trees and they’ll exploit that for what wealth they can generate; then they’ll convert it to agriculture and exploit the soil for what wealth it can generate; then if there’s greater wealth available by developing it for housing or building a town or something like that, they’ll do that. And so that’s what we’re seeing here. This area has been used for cattle grazing for many years. And now the next level of exploitation is pending as we speak.

The area that they’re surveying is about six miles east to west and about four miles north to south. It’s a very significant area out here. There’s also two other lithium companies that are prospecting for lithium in the same basin within just a few miles of where we sit, further east on the east side of the Jindalee project. So there could be three separate lithium mines operating in this location in the future. Over the last couple days we drove over the top of the Montana Mountains south from here to the top of Thacker Pass, overlooking Thacker Pass, and that whole way there’s lithium claims – mining companies have staked lithium claims for lithium up there, including Lithium Americas Corporation. So there is a very real possibility that over the coming decades this entire landscape could become an industrialized sacrifice zone, and we’re talking about an area that’s something like 25 miles north to south and 10 miles wide – a huge region.

This is incredibly important habitat. We were just down at McDermitt Creek which is vital habitat for the Lahontan cutthroat trout, a threatened fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act. This is vital habitat for Sage-Grouse. We’ve seen about eight female Sage-Grouse on the trip so far. They use this area – there are “leks” in this area where they do their breeding. Those will be abandoned if there’s too much disturbance in this area. There’s pronghorn antelope out here, mule deer, all kinds of wildlife. And up in these mountains all around us are wilderness areas. There’s something like one, two, three, four, five separate wilderness areas surrounding us right now in a big arc on the west side, the south-west, and up here to the north. Those wilderness areas have some protection, which is excellent, but that protection doesn’t mean that much if all the connectivity corridors between them, all the lands around them are industrialized, if you have all this air pollution being generated right below them that’s going directly onto the waterways and the forests that hang on to the slopes of these high mountains up here.

And of course, this is also a very culturally important area, traditionally. We’re only a few miles from the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone reservation. But, you know, the reservation system was created after colonization and prior to that there was no such thing as the Fort McDermitt tribe. There were these different bands of the local indigenous nations and those bands have been scattered and they have interrelationships. So the people whose ancestors spent time and lived on this terrain are at Burns Paiute Tribe, they’re at Fort McDermitt, they’re at Reno Sparks, they’re at the Pyramid Lake Tribe, they’re in Duck Valley. They’re all over these different reservations, these different tribes, modern tribes that we have now. And so this is a culturally very important place.

And what I’m hoping we’ll see here, what we didn’t see at Thacker Pass, is a growing resistance to this project starting early. Thacker Pass was snuck through by the Trump administration during the height of Covid. They expedited the permitting to try to avoid democracy basically, to try to avoid input from the people. And so we have a chance now with this project being more in the early stages to have more input and to have a chance to stop this thing before it even starts. They’ve already done some damage with the drilling and they can’t put that right. They’re supposed to “remediate” it. Basically their remediation consists of heaping some soil across the road and a few rocks so that hopefully nobody drives on the road that they created, and throwing out some seeds and hoping that they germinate. It’s basically a joke. So that damage has been done. There’s more drilling probably coming up soon, but I want folks to stay tuned, you know? We’ve been working to protect Thacker Pass and us and many other groups and individuals are going to be working to protect the Mcdermitt Caldera as a whole. And we’re going to need your help.

Realities from the frontlines of lithium extraction

On September 21, 2021 Yes to Life, No to Mining Network’s Lithium Working Group presented the their first Communique—On the Frontlines of Lithium Mining—in a press conference covering:

  • Why expanding mining will not solve the climate crisis.
  • How lithium extraction is responsible for trampling the rights of peoples and destroying ecosystems that play a vital role in regulating the global climate, water systems and biodiversity.
  • Principles of a just transformation to a non-exploitative, decolonial clean energy future could look like.

Read ‘On the Frontlines of Lithium Mining’ in full here:

Protect Thacker Pass attended this meeting, and People of Red Mountain submitted a video to the event which was played at the end, along with a trailer for a new film coming out soon about lithium mining in South America.

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Breaking News: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is fining Max and Will $49,890.13

After we sued the Bureau of Land Management for failing to consult with Native tribes before permitting the destruction of sacred Peehee mu’huh (Thacker Pass), BLM has found Max Wilbert and I in trespass for bathrooms that were constructed in Peehee mu’huh so that Native elders and people with disabilities could use the bathroom while praying and engaging in ceremony.

BLM is fining Max Wilbert and I $49,890.13. We need to ask whether our government takes better care of corporations or human beings and the natural world. Of course, when Lithium Nevada Corporation is permitted to destroy nearly 6000 acres in Peehee mu’huh, including digging an 1100 acre open pit, 400 feet deep, all while making millions of dollars, but Native people and their supporters can’t build an outhouse in the same exact location without being fined nearly $50,000, we must conclude that our government takes better care of corporations.

Please donate if you can: Max and Will are going to need a lot of legal help to fight this fine. Thank you!!

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Art by Travis London, Deep Green Arts.

Legal Update from the Hearing in Reno, July 21

In a video from Thacker Pass this morning, Max describes the status of the legal efforts to Protect Thacker Pass / Peehee Mu’huh.

Yesterday, a judge in the federal court in Reno heard arguments on a preliminary injunction motion filed against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Lithium Nevada Corporation (LNC) by the four environmental organizations who are suing the BLM and LNC. The lawsuit claims the Record of Decision by the BLM violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). On June 8, the group filed the injunction motion to prevent the BLM and LNC from proceeding with mine construction until their lawsuit is heard in court.In court yesterday, the judge heard arguments from the BLM and Lithium Nevada, as well as lawyers for the four environmental groups. The judge did not decide on the injunction motion yesterday, but we expect a decision on this motion by July 29.

On Tuesday, Reno Sparks Indian Colony and People of Red Mountain filed a motion to intervene in this case. This means that Reno Sparks Indian Colony and People of Red Mountain want to join the lawsuit against BLM and LNC as plaintiffs.

The motion to intervene brings new arguments to the case that fall under the National Historic Preservation Act. Under this law, the federal government is required to consult with native tribes with connections to the land before digging in or mining the land. We believe there is a strong case that the federal government has violated this law. We expect the judge to decide whether to let Reno Sparks Indian Colony and People of Red Mountain intervene in the case in the next couple of weeks.

The National Historic Preservation Act is not a strong law for protecting the land. The law does not say corporations can’t dig up a place or mine a place; it just says that the federal government must consult with tribes prior to permitting the digging and mining of a place. The government is not obliged to deny the permit even if the people with whom they consult are opposed to the mining of the land. This law is colonial law: it gives the federal government jurisdiction over land, which, in the case of Thacker Pass / Peehee Mu’huh, was never formally ceded by the tribes. There is no treaty signed that covers the Thacker Pass area, so there is no legal basis for the state of Nevada or the Federal Government to claim the land, other than the doctrine of discovery, the original law of colonization and genocide on this continent.

We will continue to use all legal tools available to us to fight the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, despite the National Historic Preservation Act being a weak law. Whether we like it or not, the court exists, the federal government believes it has jurisdiction over this land, and so we must fight the mine using these tools. But we will not count on these legal tools working, and so that is why we continue to occupy the land in opposition to the mine.

There are three key decisions we are waiting on: the judge’s decision about whether to let Reno Sparks Indian Colony and People of Red Mountain to join the case; the decision on the injunction motion from the four environmental groups, and the decision from the BLM about whether to issue the permit for archeological digging. If the judge decides not to allow Reno Sparks Indian Colony and People of Red Mountain to join the case and rejects the injunction motion, and the BLM decides to issue the permit, then Far Western Archeology Research Group can commence digging as soon as July 29.

However, we hope at least one of these decisions goes our way, in which case digging could be delayed until August.

Either way, we continue to occupy Thacker Pass / Peehee Mu’huh and prepare to resist any corporate activity from LNC or Far Western. We must not forget that the legal system, federal law, and regulations are all set up to allow projects like the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine to go forward, no matter the impact to the land, the water, the air, or the human and non-human communities a mine like this will have. The system is stacked against us.

We have each other! We must join together, and take advantage of any time we gain to continue to pressure the people in power, and prepare to put our bodies on the line. We will continue to pressure the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, our representatives in government, and local officials to rescind existing permits and deny the outstanding permits for this mine, and to meet with the Reno Sparks Indian Colony and People of Red Mountain and listen to their concerns.

Join us! Call your representatives. Call the Department of the Interior. Call officials. Come to camp. Make art, write, protest. Donate.

Thank you.

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Prayer Run Video: Steens Mountain to Thacker Pass

On June 25-27, 2021, the People of Red Mountain led a Prayer Run from Steens Mountain, OR to Peehee Mu’huh / Thacker Pass. This is a video of that event. The run was 143 miles and connected the homelands of the Northern Paiute at Steens Mountain to the Paiute-Shoshone people’s resistance at Thacker Pass, traversing the northern end of the McDermitt Caldera, filled with lithium and other metals and minerals and threatened with destruction from hundreds of mining claims. 

The People of Red Mountain are amazing: their care for the land and the efforts they are making to raise awareness about the fight to save Peehee mu’huh / Thacker Pass from mining are wonderful and inspiring. We are proud to stand in solidarity with the People of Red Mountain. Thank you runners!!

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