Orovada Rancher Edward Bartell gives public comment at the public air permit hearing expressing his concerns with the project and protesters stand at the perimeter of the meeting room.
Orovada Rancher Edward Bartell gives public comment at the public air permit hearing expressing his concerns with the project and protesters stand at the perimeter of the meeting room.

Protester disruptions at the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection proposed Thacker Pass lithium project air quality permit hearing caused organizers to cut the meeting short midway through the public comment period. 

A decision on the permit has not been issued although the division has issued an intent to issue the permit for phase one of the project in its draft permit as all reported and modeled figures fall within acceptable regulation standards. 

The public meeting, held last Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club of Winnemucca, began with an agenda including a formal presentation by the Bureau of Air Pollution Control and public comment, to allow members of the public to present additional information to what has been submitted during the 30 day comment period which opened last month. 

As the meeting began, protesters lined the perimeter of the room with drums, and signs against the project 

During the presentation by NDEP officials, protestors intermittently began yelling and banging the drums in the back of the room, as well as walking around waving signs. 

NDEP officials warned several times that the meeting would be adjourned early if disruptions continued and that the division held the meeting as a courtesy to the public rather than a required part of the permit process. 

NDEP was able to give the presentation as intended but partially through the public comment period, yelling and drumming by protesters prompted early adjournment by organizers. 

The permit applied for by Lithium Nevada Corp. for the proposed Thacker Pass lithium mining operation phase one is a Class II Air Quality Operating Permit. 

According to NDEP, the phase one Lithium Nevada Thacker Pass potential to emit pollutants facility wide expressed in tons per year are the following: particulate matter: 83.3, particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns in diameter: 52.4, tons of particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter: 36.9, sulfur dioxide: 47.8, oxides of nitrogen: 88.7, carbon monoxide: 2.52, volatile organic compounds: 0.70, hydrogen sulfide: 1.05, sulfuric acid: 25.2, and hazardous air pollutants (combined): 0.032. 

The permit will need to be renewed every five years and emissions from the mine will not be allowed to exceed the permit limits, unless a revision application is submitted and a revised permit issued. 

The air quality operating permit process consists of an application submittal, administrative completeness review, technical review (including requests for additional information), EPA review, public notice, public hearing, comments review and permit decision. 

The technical review portion of the air permit process includes consideration of state and federal requirements, emission factors, air dispersion modeling and monitoring, testing, record-keeping and reporting. 

The initial application was submitted by Lithium Nevada on January 26, 2021 and technical review began on February 10 with an intent to issue on October 15, 2021. The 30-day public notice and comment period began on October 18 and a final permit decision is to be determined. 

The proposed facility will consist of open-pit ore extraction, mineral processing, lithium processing operations, a sulfuric acid plant, start-up burner, package boiler and additional support activities. 

Mineral processing includes mineral sizing, wet screening, classification and thickening. 

Lithium processing operations include acid leaching, neutralization, magnesium precipitation, lithium carbonate extraction and lithium carbonate handling/packaging. 

The sulfuric acid plant includes molten sulfur used to produce sulfuric acid and the generation of steam for energy that will provide power to support the facility. 

Additional support activities include emergency generators, gasoline, oil and diesel storage tanks, laboratory equipment and ammonium nitrate prill silo. 

During the public comment period, Orovada Rancher Edward Bartell expressed concerns with the claims that the sulfuric acid plant would be ten times cleaner than any other one in the US using proprietary processes, and said that looking at the data, he could not find data for any acid plant around the country with data as low as the proposed reported facility data pollutants. 

Other public comments expressed concerns over the air, water quality and mine reclamation permits being granted prior to the issue being heard in court early next year regarding the lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management’s EIS record of decision. 

The proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Mine is located in Humboldt County, approximately 25 miles from the Nevada-Oregon border, 17 miles northwest of Orovada and covers 9 square miles of public land and would operate on one of the largest lithium deposits in the United States, located within an extinct supervolcano - The McDermitt Caldera. 

The water pollution control permit and mine reclamation permit application hearing is scheduled for December 1, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. This hearing will be hosted online on Lifesize (details below):

Join the meeting: https://call.lifesizecloud.com/12596855

Join the Lifesize meeting using Skype for Business: https://skype.lifesizecloud.com/12596855

Call in by Phone (audio only): United States: +1 (877) 422-8614 Meeting extension: 12596855#

More information on the permit and project including comments and replies submitted throughout the public comment period can be found online at ndep.nv.gov/thacker-pass. 

The final environmental impact statement record of decision and other documents issued by the Bureau of Land Management in December 2020 can be found online at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1503166/510.