Running the backroads
I diverted from Winnemucca north to Orovada. In town I inventoried one school, one church and one gas station. If you take Hwy 293 west, you’ll end up atop Thacker Pass. I drove out 22 miles parked my rig and took a walk. Clear sky, cool, wind was calm, beautiful up top this discovery. You wouldn’t know by looking that I was standing on the largest known lithium deposit in the United States, there is still room for uncertainty, could be the biggest whopping lithium deposit in the world, for all we know this is the largest recoverable deposit geophysicists have ever discovered or a mining company has laid claim to.
For ten years one mining company after another has been seeking the Department of the Interior’s permission to develop a mine here. Hay growers and ranchers have been scheming like a pack of chicken chasing coyotes trying to stop the project. Then, this last weekend, word came down from on high the Bureau of Land Management sent a formal notice that they had approved the claim and that Lithium America may officially proceed.
Man Cave Misbehavior
First it was the Atomic Test Site and now for all the pickles, burros, and brothels you can find, the fate of the world has once again come to rest in the Silver State’s hands. Lithium batteries will not save humanity singlehandedly but could be that our ability to manufacture electric automobiles plays an outsized role in our quest to snatch our tender behinds from everlasting vanquishment. I swear to God Cliven Bundy slammed his hat into the dirt, cursed one of his steers, the geezer is jumping up and down, and it is not with joy.
The American West is fated with a first come-first dibs sensibility. The lineage of this tradition stretches back at least to when the first pioneers crossed the frontier to open this territory for homesteading. Cowboys believed that their rights came first, last, and in-between. The original people, the indigenous population, the ancient prehistoric citizens that had arrived here 20,000 years ago, the first to have long settled the Great Basin, a civilization of hunters and gatherers, were pushed off their homeland, and replaced by a more aggressive European immigrant. Hypocrisy, dirty dealing, and no-good rotten irony went lost on this crowd of bronco busting fur trappers.
At first glance Nevada appears empty. Driving on a two-lane highway you may not encounter another soul all day and night. Looking off into the distance there are wide valleys and steep mountains where you will not see one ranch, hayfield or strand of barbwire. Nothing is out here but landscape, wildlife, and the sound of silence. Almost like Cliven Bundy is right. “Hell, nobody is here. Might as well put some cattle on the rangeland and make a little for the family.”
Sometimes it feels like the world is made up of nothing but claim jumpers, water grabbers and free grazers. Sometimes it seems Nevada is all nuclear weapons, roulette wheels and whiskey addled men. Feels like the Great Basin is biggest man cave known to civilization- this isn’t like just anywhere, this place is for misfits, this is the where you’ll find that home of the brave-land of the free.
Standing atop Thacker Pass there remains much unfinished business. There is the matter of scaling the lithium refinement process. Markets agree the Gigafactory would be a buyer, that China has been the global juggernaut of battery manufacturing, that the United States has some serious catching up to do, four years we’ve been awash in a tempest of conspiracy theories, Putin puppetry and peak swamp draining paralysis.
Still, if you are going to take part in the World Emergency Full Catastrophe Climate Change Comedy Show you need something like the Great Basin Desert, a Jeep full of contradiction, and a good plot threatening existential calamity from beginning to end. It is almost like gridlock, filibuster and procrastination have brought us to the edge of doom, doom and more doom. But we got a new sheriff in town, change is in the air, I’m feeling the tectonic plates shifting. I see progress rolling across the plains. We’re making electricity for spit, and cheap batteries out Thacker Pass dirt. I bend down and grab hold of a piece of rock, it is a piece of tomorrow I’ve got a hold of, and the 10,000 acres that I can see, I’m looking at our future, and I see hope. Today was a good day for an inauguration, Today is a fine clear blue sky, the future holds a promise. Thacker Pass until you behold the place is almost unbelievable, too good to be true, then you come here, see it for yourself, and things inside you shift around, and you see deep into the human condition, and you see possibility, you see the means of building an energy system, a gift for those who have yet come for their turn, here on this earth, the one we must preserve and nurture, our response to the climate emergency isn’t technological, it is a moral duty. I am standing atop the means to our salvation. Don’t let up now, don’t be discouraged, we’re just getting started. I got a piece of hope in my hand up on Thacker Pass.