U.S. officials remove obstacle to Lithium Americas mine

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Lithium Americas Corp. [LAC-TSX, NYSE] has released its results for the first quarter 2023, including a progress update at its key Thacker Pass and Cauchari-Olaroz lithium projects.

The company said it is targeting first lithium production from Cauchari-Olaroz in June, 2023. It also said the ramp up to 40,000 tonnes annually of battery-quality lithium carbonate is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024. Cauchari-Olaroz is located in Argentina.

Development planning for Stage 2 expansion of at least 20,000 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate continues to progress with the completion of Stage 1, the company said.

Meanwhile, a published report by Mining.com said the U.S. Interior Department has removed one of the last remaining obstacles to Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass mine in Nevada by finding that nearly all of the site contains metal used to make electric vehicle batteries. The opinion from the department’s solicitor comes amid a debate about whether more U.S. mines should be built to produce lithium and other green energy transition metals.

It is worth noting that a U.S. federal judge rejected claims that the Thacker Pass project would cause unnecessary harm to the environment.

Lithium Americas released its first quarter results after the close of trading on May 16, 2023, when the shares closed at $29.93. The shares are trading in a 52-week range of $42.82 and $23.80.

Lithium Americas recently began construction at its 100% owned Thacker Pass lithium mine after receiving a notice to proceed from the Bureau of Land Management.

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.

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.

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.

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