Lithium Americas starts construction at Thacker Pass

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Lithium Americas Corp. [LAC-TSX, NYSE] said Thursday it has begun construction at its 100%powned Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada after receiving a notice to proceed from the Bureau of Land Management.

“Starting construction is a momentous milestone for Thacker Pass and one we have been working towards for over a decade,” said Lithium Americas President and CEO Jonathan Evans. “We are exciting about the prospect of generating economic growth in northern Nevada and playing a major role in the domestic supply chain for electric vehicles.’’

The announcement comes after Lithium Americas and General Motors Co. [GM-NYSE] said they will jointly invest to develop the Thacker Pass, which ranks as one of the largest known sources of lithium in the U.S. and among the top five largest in the world.

General Motors said it would make a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas, marking the largest-ever investment by an automaker for the production of battery raw materials. Lithium Americas has estimated that lithium extracted and processed from the project can support production of up to 1.0 million electric vehicles annually.

Lithium Americas shares closed at $30.24 on March 1, 2023. The shares previously traded in a 52-week range of $50.42 and $23.80.

Under the deal, GM is set to receive exclusive access to Phase 1 production. Material sourced form Lithium Americas will help support electric vehicle eligibility for consumer incentives under the U.S. clean energy tax credits.

Lithium is a key material in lithium-ion batteries and stands up well to repeated charging and discharging (including enabling fast-charging), delivers higher energy density and offers more usable capacity than other battery types.

Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass will be used in GM’s proprietary Ultium battery cells.

The Thackers Pass lithium project is located in Humbolt County, northern Nevada. The project is situated at the southern end of the McDermitt Caldera, approximately 100 kilometres north of Winnemucca.

Production at Thacker Pass is projected to begin in the second half of 2026.

Thacker Pass is targeting 80,000 tonnes annually of battery-quality lithium carbonate production capacity in two phases of 40,000 tonnes per year respectively.  Phase 1 production is expected to commence in the second half of 2026.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, Bechtel Corp. was awarded an engineering, procurement and construction management contract for the construction of Thacker Pass Phase 1 with detailed engineering under way.

The project will be developed as an open-pit mining operation using conventional continuous mining equipment. Given the soft clay nature of the deposit, minimal blasting and crushing is anticipated. The ore will then be processed in a leaching circuit using sulfuric acid to liberate the lithium from claystone.

Following the leaching process, lithium bearing solution will be purified using crystallizers and reagents to produce battery-quality Li2CO3.

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