© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A dump truck carries a full load at a mining operation near Elko, Nevada, May 21, 2014. REUTERS / Rick Wilking / FILE PHOTO
From Ernest Scheyder
(Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge said Friday that she would decide by September 3 whether to approve a Native American motion to temporarily prevent Lithium Americas (NYSE 🙂 Corp from digging its Nevada mine site from doing so one of the largest sources in the country for the battery metal for electric vehicles.
A ruling for the Indians could signal the court can block the entire project, which was approved by the outgoing Trump administration in January.
Presiding Judge Miranda Du of federal court in Reno, Nevada, held a hearing on Friday to decide whether to block archaeological digs at Thacker Pass property while discussing the broader question of whether the permit should have been given at all .
Tribal members say the mine disrupts the soil, which contains ancestral bones. The dig itself is mandatory under federal law to determine if the land contains historical artifacts.
The Vancouver-based company and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which controls the land, say the tribes did not participate in the mine permit process upon request and their views on the land only started earlier this summer, following the project was approved.
"BLM's public relations work … has been reasonable and in good faith," said Arwyn Carroll, a BLM attorney, at the hearing. "The tribes never told the BLM that Thacker Pass could be such a site."
Tribal lawyers say regulators haven't worked hard enough to contact every tribe that may have a connection to the site, especially amid the pandemic.
Du, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, turned down a motion by environmentalists to stop the digging last month, but then allowed the tribes to make essentially the same request.
You barely gave a hint about how she might rule, but asked several times how Native American artifacts would be handled if discovered.
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