60°F
weather icon Clear

Bill would establish regulatory framework for Nevada lithium

Updated April 12, 2017 - 1:00 pm

CARSON CITY — Lithium mining exploration may get a boost in Nevada.

State officials said during a Tuesday Assembly natural resources committee hearing that Assembly Bill 52 would clarify a system that requires explorers to rely on water well regulations and waivers to sample brines for lithium from drilled wells.

“With the growing need for lithium locally, nationally and internationally it became apparent that regulations need to be developed” to protect groundwater and geothermal resources, Pam Robinson, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s policy director, told the committee.

Lithium is used in car batteries, ceramics and antidepressants. In the United States, it is mined only in Nevada.

The proposal comes amid an increased demand for lithium with the arrival of the Tesla Gigafactory, which makes car batteries east of Reno, and Faraday Future, an electric car maker that has announced plans for a plant in North Las Vegas.

The bill would define a borehole, which is used for initial exploration to sample water for chemicals; and wells, which can be used for sampling and pumping.

Richard Perry, administrator of the Nevada Minerals Division, said the bill does not change existing property and water laws. The legislation also limits the water that can be pumped from an exploration project to no more than 5 acre-feet. Anything beyond that must go through the state’s existing water appropriations process. One acre-foot of water is enough water to cover an acre 1 foot deep.

State Engineer Jason King said his office supports the legislation, which clarifies the exploration process.

Richard Harris, a mining attorney in Reno, said he represents four clients that move than 2,600 claims for lithium exploration. Millions set aside for exploration cannot be spent now, he said, stressing the need for the legislation.

Dave Shaddrick, President of the Nevada Mineral Exploration Coalition, said the current permitting process is unclear, calling the bill a “very good solution to that problem.”

Opposition testimony

The only lithium brine mine operation in the United States is at Silver Peak in Esmeralda County. It opened in 1966, and is now owned by Albemarle Corp.

Leo Drozdoff, an Albemarle Corp. lobbyist, opposed the bill. He said water rights are a fundamental part of exploration because lithium is a dissolved mineral. He raised concerns that the bill does not outline how boreholes and wells would work.

“The greatest difficulty that’s been going on to date is the boreholes are being drilled out in Clayton Valley and they’re not being monitored,” he said.

Lithium only has four producers in the world, with much of the mining done in South America.

The demand for lithium brine exploration is high, with 13,258 claims filed throughout Nevada by 25 companies in 18 different basins as of January, state data show.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - VIDEO
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - VIDEO
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Lawsuit challenges Nevada’s new diabetes drug disclosure law

Two pharmaceutical groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of a bill passed by the 2017 Nevada Legislature requiring disclosure of the pricing of diabetes drugs.

Nevada Legislature approves final payment for ESA software

The final action on Nevada’s controversial private school choice program came Thursday when the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee approved $105,000 to pay off the remaining costs incurred by a vendor who was working on the development of software to implement the program.

 
Recall targets a third Nevada senator

A third recall petition against a female Nevada state senator was filed Wednesday.

Federal government approves Nevada’s education plan

Nevada is among four states to get U.S. Education Department approval of its plan as required under a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.