Biden’s Agenda, Lithium Mine, Tribes, Greens Collide in Reno

A high-stakes, yearslong legal battle over a huge lithium mine planned in Nevada resumes Thursday with arguments from lawyers for the mining company, the U.S. agency that approved it and the rancher, tribes and conservationists fighting the project.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du has refused twice over the past year to grant temporary injunctions sought by tribal leaders who say the mine site is on sacred land where their ancestors were massacred by the U.S. Cavalry in 1865.

But Thursday’s hearing in her Reno courtroom marks the first on the actual merits of the case and will set the legal landscape going forward with a new twist after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in Arizona that voided federal approval of a copper mine.

That potentially precedent-setting decision raises questions about the reach of the Mining Law of 1872 and could have a bearing on disposal of waste rock at the lithium mine in the high desert 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the Oregon line, the largest proposed in the nation.

Lithium Nevada Corp. and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management say the project atop an ancient volcano is critical to meeting growing demand for lithium to make electric vehicle batteries — a key part of President Joe Biden’s push to expedite a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

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