Judge rules against tribes in fight over Nevada lithium mine they say is near sacred massacre site

Daranda Hinkey, a Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone tribe member, holds a large hand-painted sign that reads "No Lithium No Mine" on April 24 near McDermitt, Nev. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

RENO, Nev. — A federal judge in Nevada has dealt another legal setback to Native American tribes trying to halt construction of one of the biggest lithium mines in the world.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du granted the government’s motion to dismiss their claims the mine is being built illegally near the sacred site of an 1865 massacre along the Nevada-Oregon line.


But she said in last week’s order the three tribes suing the Bureau of Land Management deserve another chance to amend their complaint to try to prove the agency failed to adequately consult with them as required by the National Historic Preservation Act.

“Given that the court has now twice agreed with federal defendants (and) plaintiffs did not vary their argument … the court is skeptical that plaintiffs could successfully amend it. But skeptical does not mean futile,” Du wrote Nov. 9.

She also noted part of their case is still pending on appeal at the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, which indicated last month it likely will hear oral arguments in February as construction continues at Lithium Nevada’s mine at Thacker Pass about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Reno.

Du said in an earlier ruling the tribes had failed to prove the project site is where more than two dozen of their ancestors were killed by the U.S. Cavalry Sept. 12, 1865.

Her new ruling is the latest in a series that have turned back legal challenges to the mine on a variety of fronts, including environmentalists’ claims it would violate the 1872 Mining Law and destroy key habitat for sage grouse, cutthroat trout and pronghorn antelope.

All have argued the bureau violated numerous laws in a rush to approve the mine to help meet sky-rocketing demand for lithium used in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.

Lithium Nevada officials said the $2.3 billion project remains on schedule to begin production in late 2026.

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