Lithium Americas Thacker Pass

Posted July 30, 2020

The Thacker Pass Project is located within the McDermitt Caldera in Humboldt County in northern Nevada, approximately 60 miles north of Winnemucca, approximately 20 miles northwest of Orovada, Nevada, and 20 miles south of the Oregon border. It is situated at the southern end of the McDermitt Caldera and encompasses approximately 8,320 acres.

Chevron began exploring the McDermitt Caldera in 1975 for uranium. Early in Chevron’s program, the United States Geological Survey alerted Chevron to the presence of irregular concentrations of lithium associated with the caldera. Chevron added lithium to its assays in 1978 and 1979, started a clay analysis program, and obtained samples for engineering work, while uranium remained the primary focus of exploration. Most of the project area was surveyed by airborne gamma ray spectrometry.

Between 1980 and 1987 Chevron began a drilling program that focused on lithium targets and conducted extensive metallurgical testing to determine the viability of extracting lithium from the clays. The results confirmed high lithium concentrations.

Chevron leased many of the claims that included the lithium to the J. M. Huber Corporation in 1986. In 1991, Chevron sold its interest in the claims to Cyprus Gold Exploration Corporation. In 1992, Huber terminated the lease. Cyprus Gold Exploration Corporation allowed the claims to lapse and provided much of the exploration data to one of the prior claim owners. Western Energy Development Corporation, a Nevada corporation, leased the claims in 2005 and was given access to the Chevron data and core samples that were available.

Between 2007 and 2011, Western Lithium USA Corporation conducted an exploration program that focused on the southern portion of the McDermitt Caldera. Of 232 drilled exploration holes, 198 cores were assayed. The results of the assay analysis indicated the presence of an anomalously high-grade lithium deposit. A survey was completed using a Trimble Global Positioning System and the  surface area was mapped by aerial photography.

The project has been in active development since 2008 and was operated by Western Lithium USA Corporation until 2015 when it merged with Lithium Americas Corporation. In March 2016, Western Lithium USA Corporation adopted the Lithium Americas Corporation name and renamed the Nevada-based subsidiary Lithium Nevada Corporation.

Lithium Nevada Corporation conducted an exploration program in 2017 to identify a resource of scale in the Thacker Pass area, where sage grouse habitat quality is substantially lower than in the Montana Mountains to the north. In Thacker Pass, 77 exploration holes were drilled, a seismic survey was conducted, and the surface geology of the project was remapped. The results indicated a larger lithium deposit than was previously identified.

The Thacker Pass project is 100% owned by Lithium Americas Corporation and there has been no commercial lithium production from the property. Through a subsidiary company, Lithium Americas Corporation does operate a hectorite clay mine on the property that produces hectorite clays for industrial purposes. The facility consists of a small open pit and small outbuilding.

Nov. 19, 2018, The Northern Miner reported Lithium Americas Thacker Pass deposit is the largest lithium clay project in the world with a mine life of 46 years. The company has just begun the permitting process and expects to start building the first phase of the project by the end of 2020, with lithium production beginning in 2022.

Aug. 30, 2019, Mining Technology reported that the Thacker Pass lithium project was one of the “Top ten biggest lithium mines in the world.” The article stated that mine is estimated to contain proven and probable reserves of 179.4Mt containing 3.1Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent and has an estimated mine life of 46 years. The pre-feasibility study was completed August 2018, which proposed the two-phase mine development using open-pit methods. Phase one is expected to be commissioned in 2022 with a production capacity of 30,000tpa of battery-grade material while phase two will increase the capacity to 60,000tpa with a commissioning date of 2026.

Lithium Americas Thacker Pass Project Plan of Operations was submitted to the Bureau of Land Management August 2019 and accepted September 2019. The Bureau of Land Management published a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Mine project in the Federal Register Jan. 21, 2020. The public scoping period opened Jan. 21, 2020, and closed Feb. 27, 2020.

Jan. 31, 2020, the Northern Nevada Business Weekly reported in the article “$1.3 billion Lithium Nevada project on track for 2020 milestones” that the Bureau of Land Management has started their 12-month approval process. If the project is approved the company projects operations will create approximately 1,000 jobs during construction of the $1.3 billon facility and will employ more than 285 people upon completion.

In recent company newsletters Lithium Americas reported that they have been running bulk ore through its new process research facility located in Reno, Nevada, since early 2019. The facility contains pilot-scale equipment representing key unit operations of the lithium extraction process. To date, over 20 tons of ore have been processed at the facility, generating essential data to be used for engineering and design of the full-scale plant.

Lithium Nevada maintains Thacker Pass project offices in Winnemucca and Reno, Nevada. The parent company, Lithium Americas, is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia.

July 29, 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) analyzing the potential impacts of the proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Project. If approved, the project would develop lithium reserves within the Thacker Pass deposit, the largest and highest-grade known sedimentary deposit of this critical mineral in the United States, and the second largest in the world.

The BLM also published the Notice of Availability (NOA). The public comment period is open and will close Sept. 14, 2020. Public meetings for this project will be held Aug. 19 and 20 online through a webinar platform due to the VOVID-19 pandemic. Globe Newswire also published an article about the announcement.

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