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US DOE Lends $2.26 Billion for Lithium Mine

[ March 22, 2024   //   ]

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to lend Lithium Americas up to US$2.26 billion to build Nevada’s Thacker Pass lithium project, one of Washington’s largest mining industry investments to boost domestic production of critical minerals for the energy transition.
The loan, announced by the company on March 14, is a key part of U.S. President Biden’s efforts to reduce dependence on lithium supplies from China, the world’s largest processor of the key battery metal. The mine is slated to open later this decade and be a key supplier to General Motors Co..
Initial construction started at the site, just south of the Nevada-Oregon border, in March 2023, following a long-running court case against conservationists, ranchers and indigenous communities, Reuters said.
Vancouver-based Lithium Americas said that, once the loan closes later this year, following final environmental reviews, major construction will begin on the three-year project.
The mine’s first phase is expected to produce 40,000 tonnes of battery-quality lithium carbonate per year, enough for up to 800,000 electronic vehicles.
Cost for the Thacker Pass project has ballooned from a previous estimate of US$2.27 billion to nearly US$2.93 billion, due to higher engineering costs, agreeing to use union labor and Lithium Americas’ decision to build a housing facility for workers and their families in the remote region.
GM agreed in January 2023 to invest US$650 million in the project – becoming Lithium America’s largest shareholder – which could produce enough battery metal to build 1 million EVs annually. The DOE loan and GM investment is expected to provide most of the funds needed for the mine’s first phase.
The DOE loan, sanctioned under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, expects an estimated $290 million of interest to accrue over a three-year period.
Lithium Americas plans to extract lithium at Thacker Pass from a large clay deposit, though that has never been done before at commercial scale. To extract the lithium from that clay, The company will import sulfur to make sulfuric acid, which will be used to extract the lithium. As part of the mine construction, Lithium Americas plans to build a rail terminal roughly 60 miles from the mine site to import sulfur and other materials.
The project is expected to reach full capacity in 2028, with the goal to eventually produce 80,000 tonnes per year.
While support from the region’s indigenous people has been mixed, Thacker Pass is strongly opposed by ranchers and conservationists, who fear it will hurt local water supplies and small plants and animals.
The DOE previously made a loan to a U.S. lithium company when it offered Ioneer up to US$700 million in loans to build its Rhyolite Ridge lithium project roughly 200 miles north of Las Vegas.

Lithium Americas’ mine is expected to produce 80,000 tonnes of lithium per year. PHOTO: Lithium Americas