Today, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) is announcing three permit decisions for Lithium Nevada Corporation’s proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Mine project near the town of Orovada in northern Humboldt County. The three permit approvals follow a rigorous and comprehensive permit application review and revision process, including a series of public meetings beginning in April 2021, review and response to hundreds of public comments, as well as extensive engagement with representatives of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe leadership, community residents, and other Nevada stakeholders.
Based on this extensive review, NDEP has determined the proposed mine can operate in a manner that protects public health and the environment, including air, land, and water quality. A key protection included by NDEP in approving the mining permits requires Lithium Nevada to set aside over $47 million in financial assurance to fully fund the concurrent revitalization of the mine site during production and upon final closure of the site. As part of its final permit decisions, NDEP requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review Lithium Nevada’s air permit to reaffirm that it is fully enforceable and that all federal Clean Air Act requirements are appropriately included. Based on these determinations, NDEP will be issuing air, water pollution control, and mine reclamation permits to Lithium Nevada, effective February 25, 2022.
“With every permit decision, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection remains firmly committed to protecting public health and the natural environment, ensuring all projects overseen by our agency are carried out responsibly and comply with all state and federal standards, every step of the way throughout the project,” said NDEP Administrator Greg Lovato. “As a vital part of these efforts, our Thacker Pass permit requirements were informed by the best available science, along with extensive outreach and engagement activities. I want to give a special thanks to the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, Nevada stakeholders, and community residents who shared their input to help shape all aspects of NDEP’s air, water, and mining permits for the proposed Thacker Pass project to protect the surrounding community and environment.”
Specific conditions Lithium Nevada must follow to protect public health and the natural environment were included in the permits. Key highlights include:
- Clean Air Permit: The air permit contains extensive testing, monitoring, and reporting requirements to ensure that emissions from the mine facility do not exceed Federal and State air quality standards, including a continuous emission monitoring system for the sulfuric acid plant. The permit also requires the facility to test the sulfuric acid plant in the presence of NDEP inspectors under the conditions it will operate and sample air emissions during the test to demonstrate compliance. NDEP also requested the EPA to review the draft air permit to verify enforceability of its requirements. NDEP subsequently incorporated suggestions from EPA.
- Water Pollution Control Permit: To protect groundwater quality, NDEP’s water pollution control permit prohibits mining into the regional water table as originally proposed and will include additional investigation and monitoring of groundwater depth and quality to ensure full protection. NDEP’s evaluation determined that the originally proposed plan to mine below the water table would have the potential to degrade water quality, in violation of Nevada water pollution control law.
- Mine Reclamation Permit: The mine reclamation permit requires Lithium Nevada to secure over $47 million in financial assurance, a sum that accounts for all costs needed to ensure the mine site can be restored to a productive post-mining land use(s) which may include wildlife habitat, livestock grazing, agriculture and ranching, industrial uses, renewable energy development and storage, recreation or any other uses beneficial to the State of Nevada, its residents or landowner.
As part of the permit requirements, NDEP will continue to oversee all aspects of the mine operation through rigorous compliance and enforcement protocols and will perform routine field inspections of mine operations on at least a quarterly basis, and more often as needed. Additionally, NDEP scientists and engineers will regularly review required environmental data reports to make sure the facility is operating in full compliance with all NDEP permits. NDEP will share all facility information, reports, and correspondence online, and is available for additional meetings with the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe and other local Nevada stakeholders to discuss mine operations.
Importantly, NDEP’s permit decisions apply only to State and Federal air and water quality environmental statutes administered by NDEP. Any required authorizations from other State or Federal agencies for use of water, protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and cultural resources are not a part of these decisions.
Learn more about NDEP’s Thacker Pass permitting processes at ndep.nv.gov/thacker-pass.