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Federal Court Blocks Activist Efforts To Stop Biden-Backed Lithium Mine Construction

A federal appeals court blocked efforts by environmentalists and Native Americans to end construction on a Biden administration-backed Nevada lithium mine Monday.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to approve the $2.2 billion project, a key part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to move away from fossil fuels, was not “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance” with the National Environmental Policy Act. Environmentalists and tribal groups have been fighting to stop construction of the mine at Thacker Pass, poised to become one of the largest in the United States, for two years, alleging that it will destroy lands considered sacred to local tribes and violate environmental laws, according to the Associated Press.

“We have always been confident that the permitting process for Thacker Pass was conducted thoroughly and appropriately,” said Jonathan Evans, CEO of project developer Lithium Americas Corp., the company heading up the project, according to E&E News. “Construction activities continue at the project as we look forward to playing an important role in strengthening America’s domestic battery supply chains.”

Construction started on the project in March after Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada Miranda Du cleared the it to move forward in February. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments for the lawsuit in late June.

The Lithium Americas-run mine, which company officials say has enough lithium to support over 1.5 million electric vehicles annually for forty years, was approved in 2021 during the last days of the Trump administration and is an important part of President Joe Biden’s goal to make half of all vehicles electric by 2023, according to AP.

Lithium Americas’ largest shareholder, Ganfeng Lithium, has ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through its president Li Liangbin, a member of multiple CCP-linked groups, and its executive vice president Wang Xiaoshen, who previously worked for Chinese state-owned businesses, according to the Washington Free Beacon. Xiaoshen is also a member of Lithium Americas’ board of directors.

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