New Lithium Technology Center Demonstrates Sustainable Business Practices

New Lithium Technology Center Demonstrates Sustainable Business Practices

Lithium Americas President of North American Operations Alexi Zawadzki, far left, gave Ft.  Members of the McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, from right, Kyle Crutcher, Cauy Crutcher, Ario Crutcher and Rick Crutcher tour the Tech Center.

Lithium Americas President of North American Operations Alexi Zawadzki, far left, gave Ft. Members of the McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, from right, Kyle Crutcher, Cauy Crutcher, Ario Crutcher and Rick Crutcher tour the Tech Center.


Among the scrub and sand of the Nevadan deserts, particularly in Humboldt County, are rare and lucrative pockets of lithium waiting to be mined, refined and turned into the battery-grade lithium carbonate that powers countless everyday items.


Lithium Americas held the grand opening of its 30,000-square-foot Technical Center in Reno on July 20, which will house research and development projects needed to support the evolution of the most advanced lithium mining project in the United States – located in McDermitt – striving for bigger, better and greener goals.


The Thacker Pass site, which is about 60 miles from Winnemucca, has received approval from the Bureau of Land Management, allowing construction to begin, according to Lithium Americas.


Lithium Americas President and CEO Jonathan Evans, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval were on hand to cut the ribbon at the grand opening, along with members of the Ft. Shoshone Tribe McDermit Paiute.


“While we hope to play a significant role in developing a secure domestic supply of lithium to meet our nation’s electrification needs, we are committed to doing so in a way that benefits the people of Nevada, tribal nations and the wider industry that thrives in this state,” Evans said.


The event featured a tour of the pristine machines used to remove impurities and promote clean waste products that can be reintroduced into the environment. Most of the process, according to Lithium Americas president of North American operations Alexi Zawadzki, is to remove impurities, such as magnesium, that can cause lithium batteries to catch fire, and to ensure that the waste products created by the mining process, are environmentally responsible.

“It’s really important that people understand what we do with our waste products,” Zawadzki said.

The waste produced by the mining process – such as Epsom salt, magnesium and neutral clay – can be touched with bare hands, and was so by many of the guests at the opening. Even while the machines are working with materials inside them, technicians and visitors should only wear plastic safety glasses. The lithium-free clay, made from sandy-silt material, is packed tightly into flat, square bricks, removing much of the water that is initially used to clean unwanted minerals from the lithium-bearing materials by the end of the process. Bricks are easily stored and can then be placed in mounds and used for backfill in reclamation. Lithium Americas is still researching how to recycle the Epsom salt, according to officials.


According to Zawadzki, the Thacker Pass site will also have its own sulfuric acid plant for leaching and neutralization, an important step in ensuring that the resulting lithium is pure. The facility will convert sulphur, which is much safer to transport and store than sulfuric acid, into sulfuric acid on site, eliminating risks during transport and handling.


“Building an on-site sulfuric acid plant reduces the number of trucks on the road because every ton of sulfur can create three tons of sulfuric acid, and sulfur is much safer to transport. Sulfuric acid production also produces steam that we will use to generate carbon-free power for the processing plant,” according to Lithium Americas.

Julia Maestrejuan/Nevada News Group
Brian Sandoval, University of Nevada President, front left, Jonathan Evans, CEO of Lithium Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, Littlestar Abel, member of the Ft. McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Maria Anderson, community relations manager for Lithium Nevada and other members of the Ft. The McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new Lithium Technology Center on July 20 in Reno.

The materials go through other cleaning, filtering and purification processes, forging sustainable energy from steam and water that is recycled more than seven times during the process. Finally, the white powdery lithium substance is tested in parts per million for impurities through expert procedures in a state-of-the-art laboratory.

Zawadzki said the filtration processes to reuse water and create environmentally neutral waste products are expensive but important to Lithium Americas’ work to minimize its environmental footprint, which goes beyond regulatory requirements.

“We’re still getting better,” Zawadzki said.

“Through Lithium Americas’ technological expertise and the research capacity of the University of Nevada, Reno, the Lithium Technical Development Center that went live today is a shining example of the productive public-private partnerships we are fostering across the state to drive economic growth and responsible use of resources,” Sisolak said. “This is a fantastic achievement for all involved, placing Nevada firmly at the center of US clean energy leadership.”

“The determination that Lithium Americas has shown not only to build a strong US battery industry, but also to train the next pioneers in this space, will pay dividends for Nevada, ensuring that we can continue to set and achieve ambitious goals,” said Sandoval.

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