RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -The battle over a proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass near the Oregon border came to Reno Thursday outside the federal courthouse. It’s a battle that pits *environmentalists* against *environmentalists” and – cultural and historic values… against national goals.
Thacker Pass sits in a remote corner of the state, a couple of hundred miles north of Reno just south of the Oregon border. It looks like much of our basin and range landscape, but two things set it apart.
Beneath the surface lies a huge deposit of lithium, perhaps one of the largest known anywhere and lithium may hold the key to a future of green energy, electric cars, cleaner air, a stable climate.
But there’s also a history here. For eons this was tribal land, supporting the original inhabitants and, in 1865, a number of them were massacred here by US cavalry troops. Peehee M’uh H’uh, as they call it, it is hallowed ground.
“If we went and dug up Gettysburg looking for gold, copper, lithium or any of those types of things, they would definitely say no to all of that,” argues Pitt River Modoc Tribe member Dallas Cummings. “Why are their rights coming before our rights when we’re the original people here?”
And that’s the issue that brought tribal members from all over the area to a rally outside the federal courthouse in Reno, Thursday.
“The area is of ceremonial use to us. We pray and we gather our medicines as of today and pay our respects to our ancestors whose spirits are there,” adds Bethany Sam, a spokeswoman for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
“They’re buried there and we don’t want them to be dug up. We want them to continue resting where they passed away at, where they were massacred,” says Dorece Antonio, a Fort Mc Dermitt Shoshone.
There were also environmental concerns and some questioned the whole premise of lithium pointing the way to the nation’s future.
“They still have to use fossil fuels to build those plants to be able to create this lithium,” argued Cummings. “It don’t make no sense to me to destroy the earth to save the earth.”
Inside Judge Miranda Du’s courtroom, final arguments were heard on key legal points in a lawsuit brought by two tribes including work already underway at the site. The protestors say it’s already destroying and desecrating Thacker pass and doing so illegally without a proper permit. The company, Lithium Nevada, says what they are doing, test drilling, and other construction, was authorized by previous permits.
No decision was expected immediately. That may take days or weeks yet and, when it comes, it’s unlikely to be the last word in this unlikely collision of values, of past and future,
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