Glenn Miller was a founding member of Great Basin Resource Watch, and says the environmental organization has done a lot over the years to help make the mining industry more environmentally friendly. However, he also believes lithium will be essential in the all-important fight against climate change, and he resigned from GBRW’s board last year over disagreements over the organization’s handling of the project. of lithium Thacker Pass.
Miller was involved in the lawsuit against the federal approval of the Thacker Pass project which was filed by GBRW and three other organizations in February 2021.
Miller said he found Lithium Americas, the company working on the construction of Thacker Pass, to be a pretty good company, but GBRW manager John Hadder lobbied for a complaint, which mostly concerned the park at proposed mine tailings.
“And it turns out there are still questions about it,” Miller said.
However, a few months after the lawsuit was filed, GBRW and the three other organizations that filed the lawsuit filed a preliminary injunction to block construction of the Thacker Pass mine.
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“If successful, it would have stopped everything,” Miller said. “And I was never consulted about it and I would have opposed it. And when I found out it was done, that’s when I resigned from the board. from Great Basin Resource Watch.
Miller taught in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno for 40 years and is currently temporarily back as department co-chair.
Any mine will have environmental impacts, Miller said, and Thacker Pass will be a large mine, but he has reviewed the proposed operations and processes at the mine and believes the mine will be relatively benign.
Thacker Pass has no acidic drainage potential, Miller said.
“That’s probably one of the biggest problems in gold and copper mining is acidic drainage,” Miller said.
Also, Thacker Pass will not have a mine lake.
“There are 1,000-year impacts when we create these mine lakes,” Miller said.
Based on his understanding of the process, Miller believes the use of sulfur and the tailings management facility will also be fairly benign.
“That’s a lot of sulfur, but it gets converted into sulfuric acid, which is neutralized with calcium carbonate to make gypsum. And gypsum is a wallboard.
“I’m really confident that they’ve come up with this process.”
From Miller’s perspective, the impacts of the mine are probably worth it to get the lithium needed for the batteries.
“I’m an unabashed proponent of lithium as a way to fight climate change,” Miller said.
“I’ve taught many environmental science courses and seen the issue of climate change evolve into something that I think is probably the biggest environmental threat to humans. And I think we have to have an all-hands effort. And lithium is the only metal absolutely necessary for transport batteries. Other metals – cobalt, manganese, nickel – some of them can be replaced by other metals, but not lithium.
“For me, mining is a climate change issue.”
Miller said some people argue that with all the energy it takes to get the metals needed for batteries, you really aren’t accomplishing much by switching to battery power.
“But in fact, if you look at most of the scientific evidence…every paper that’s a legit comparison says that from a climate change perspective you have an advantage when you use battery technology over fuels at the carbon.”