Judge allows Nevada tribes to join fight over lithium mine
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A judge has cleared the way for two tribes to join a legal battle over plans to build a mine in Nevada at the largest known U.S. deposit of lithium and seek a temporary ban on digging for an archaeological survey that they say would desecrate sacred tribal lands near the Oregon line.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du on Wednesday allowed the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa Koodakuh Wyh Nuwu/People of Red Mountain to intervene in a lawsuit against Lithium Nevada Corp.
The tribes say their ancestors were massacred in the late 1800s at the proposed Thacker Pass mine site.
They say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the project in December during the final weeks of the Trump administration violates the National Historic Preservation Act because they haven’t been consulted about potential efforts to mitigate damage to their sacred lands.
If the land agency and “Lithium Nevada prevail, a massive open pit mine will be constructed on a massacre site, historic properties and hunting and gathering grounds important to the region’s tribes,” they wrote in court filings last week on behalf of 1,157 members of the colony including Shoshone, Paiute and Washoe tribes.
It comes after the judge rejected a request last week from four conservation groups that sought to block the digging of sample trenches based on claims it would destroy critical habitat for the sage grouse, an imperiled ground-dwelling bird.
But Du said during a July 21 hearing on that motion that if she decided to allow the tribes to intervene, her initial impression was they had a better chance of persuading her to temporarily halt activity at the mine site.
“The argument about irreparable harm is more persuasive — the violation of the National Historic Preservation Act itself,” she...