By Ernest Scheyder
January 20 (Reuters) – U.S. regulators have taken a step closer to approving the Nevada Lithium Americas Corp. mine for the white metal and have initiated a review process that could result in final building permits by 2021.
The move comes as US politicians are pushing for increased domestic mining of specialized minerals. Lithium is used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Albemarle Corp is the only current US manufacturer of lithium.
The U.S. Department of Interior submitted documents to issue a public statement on the environmental statement of the Thacker Pass project next year. This appears from a publication on a government website on January 21st closed on Monday due to vacation.
The twelve-month review process “is an important milestone in the development of Thacker Pass,” said Jon Evans, who was named CEO of the company last year.
The company plans to develop the Nevada mine, which extracts lithium from a clay deposit, in two phases over approximately 40 years. According to official documents, the project’s footprint would be around 73 square kilometers.
It is expected that the Thacker Pass will have around 300 employees and produce several types of lithium. It could eventually make solid-state lithium batteries after filing.
Lithium Americas plans to spend $ 400 million on the first phase of the project and to produce 20,000 tons of lithium annually.
The company hopes to begin construction of the mine in 2021, close it in 2061, and spend at least five years reclaiming the site, according to records, to bring it back as close as possible to the state in front of the mine.
Vancouver-based Lithium Americas is developing a lithium brine project in northern Argentina with China’s largest shareholder, Ganfeng Lithium Co Ltd.
Progress in approving Nevada is due to a closer examination of a rival near environmentalists.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sued U.S. regulators last year for issuing exploration permits to ioneer Ltd. in Nevada, arguing that the ioneer lithium project would disrupt a flower.
The CBD withdrew its lawsuit earlier this month after ioneer agreed to take additional measures to bypass the facility. However, the environmental group has promised to prevent ione from opening the facility if flowers are damaged.
Lithium America’s project could potentially affect streams where the Lahontan cutthroat trout live. As a result, regulators have announced that they will seek public feedback on this point next year. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; editing by Tom Brown)