Responsible Production

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) Standard is the world's most stringent ESG framework with a strong emphasis on external assurance and stakeholder engagement. Project-level certification is based on independent third-party verification and certification against a comprehensive standard that covers all issues related to industrial-scale resource extraction.

In April 2022, Lithium Americas voluntarily participated in a pilot for the draft IRMA Ready Standard for Responsible Mineral Exploration and Development for Thacker Pass. The company completed a self-assessment of the draft standard by analyzing 405 requirements and commenting on 122 consultation questions.

The Company has since initiated an IRMA Ready gap analysis to prepare for a formal IRMA Ready external audit in 2024, following IRMA's integration of the IRMA Ready Standard into the broader IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining.

To learn more about IRMA visit https://responsiblemining.net/ (opens in new window).

Energy And Emissions

Carbon intensity for Thacker Pass is estimated to be ~40% less than mining peers (when including processing)*. Thacker Pass benefits from having on-site sulfuric acid plants that are expected to produce ~50% of required power. By using Mechanical Vapor Recompression evaporator technology, this carbon-free power is used to electrify our most energy intensive processes, avoiding up to 10.02 tonnes of carbon emissions per tonne of lithium carbonate produced per annum (t CO2e/t Li2CO3), versus a conventional triple effect evaporator with propane fired boilers and imported sulfuric acid.

Following is a baseline of our expected operational Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity for Thacker Pass. In mid-2023, we completed a preliminary estimate of our expected operational Scope 3 (upstream and downstream) carbon intensity.

Building on our 2017 partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to establish an initiative for the restoration and protection of great basin sagebrush by founding the Great Basin Sagebrush Restoration Fund, in 2021 we partnered with UNR's Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering at the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering to assess the socioeconomic and environmental footprint for the Thacker Pass project. Professor Ehsan Vahidi, Ph.D. will run the two-year program, which will include developing a lifecycle inventory database, quantifying the environmental performance of lithium production from claystone ore and analyzing the socioeconomic impacts from activity at Thacker Pass along with the impacts of other lithium production facilities around the world.

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Water

Lithium Americas is implementing responsible mining practices, while also demonstrating leadership in environmental sustainability. Our water conservation plan supports one of our priorities – to sustainably manage water resources by limiting its use and safeguarding its quality. Thacker Pass has been designed as a zero liquid discharge (ZLD) process to maximize water recycling and reuse, and to not discharge industrial wastewater.

The process flowsheet design for Thacker Pass will have efficiencies designed throughout the entire process that leverages filtration, evaporation and centrifuge technologies, to maximize the reuse and recycling of processed water and limit the amount of water obtained from natural sources.

Based on a detailed water cycle assessment, any water withdrawn for the operation is expected to be recycled and reused an average of approximately seven times within the production process. The ZLD design is an extensive commitment because it means all processed water, including water filtered from tailings, must be recycled in the site’s production process. Thacker Pass lithium processing will recycle 85% of the total water used.

The consumptive water requirement for operations at Thacker Pass for Phase 1 is estimated at approximately 2,850 acre feet per year, which is the equivalent of around five alfalfa irrigation pivots of well water, per year. An acre foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover an acre of land, 1-foot deep. Learn more about how we recycle and reuse process water.

The following diagram shows how water flows at Thacker Pass.

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Biodiversity and Reclamation

Lithium Americas is committed to reducing our biodiversity impacts, to protecting local species, cultures and natural ecosystems and to integrating conservation into the design and life cycles of our projects and operating activities. We are actively involved in managing, protecting and mitigating habitats and ecosystems in our project areas.

Over the past 12 years, we have carefully studied the ecosystem that surrounds Thacker Pass, and have made several key design decisions based on biodiversity considerations including:

  • Moving the project's location out of the Montana Mountains to protect sensitive species. The mountains support streams, wildlife and vegetation, while Thacker Pass is dry and dominated by sage brush that has sustained fire damage and is therefore considered a lower-quality habitat area.
  • Building stringent requirements into the project from this early stage, including planning and permitting as well as various monitoring and mitigation measures.
  • Committing to funding sage grouse habitat restoration in Northern Nevada.
  • Committing to funding stream-habitat restoration projects by the Nevada Division of Wildlife north of the project area

Since starting work on Thacker Pass, we have invested more than $2 million in biodiversity and culture-related projects including sagebrush restoration funds, golden eagle habitat surveys and cultural treatment. We have taken a proactive approach to minimizing our biodiversity impact, for example:

  • We continue to work with local partners to study and support the conservation of local flora and fauna. We make an annual donation to the Great Basin Sagebrush Restoration (GBSR) Fund we established in partnership with the University of Nevada Foundation in 2017. The donation advances research and development towards improved cost-effective restoration of degraded sagebrush lands. As of 2023, we have donated $241,500 to the GBSR Fund.
  • The Thacker Pass reclamation plan includes a planned topology that maps out enhanced protection for local biodiversity. This was developed following an intense study of local biodiversity to understand its context, including baseline studies of sage grouse, eagles, trout and other species.