Lithium mining company agrees to moratorium in Nevada
Ioneer USA Corp. said it has agreed to a moratorium on new mining activities its planned Rhyolite Ridge lithium project near Silver Peak in exchange for the Center for Biological Diversity dropping a lawsuit that aimed to protect a rare desert flower.
On Jan. 2, the Center for Biological Diversity filed notice in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas that it was voluntarily withdrawing its lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking a ban on all drilling and road building at the site on federal land as a result of the newly reached agreement with Ioneer.
The center had filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October to list the rare Tiehm's buckwheat as an endangered species.
The Associated Press reported that the lawsuit accused the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of illegally dividing the Rhyolite Ridge mining operations into two separate projects so as to bypass its own regulations requiring a formal environmental review and public comment on any land disturbances larger than 2 ha (5 acres).
The state of Nevada then announced it was launching a comprehensive review of the status of the wildflower found only in the Silver Peak Range, about 193 km (120 miles) southeast of Reno.
Ioneer says it ceased exploration at the site in December, and the BLM subsequently terminated its formal exploration notices.
As part of the new agreement, the company said it wouldn't seek such approval without notifying the conservation group. It also agreed to use only hand-held equipment for reclamation activities within 9 m (30 ft) of the plant.
Ioneer says that lithium and boron can be readily leached from the Rhyolite Ridge host rock using dilute sulphuric acid,
The Rhyolite Ridge Mineral Resource contains a total of 4.1 Mt (4.5 million st) of lithium carbonate and 10.9 Mt (12 million st) of boric acid. Further drilling is likely to increase this resource as the estimate is for less than 20 percent of the area of the two prospective basins at Rhyolite Ridge, the company said on its website.
The estimated 20,000 to 43,000 individual plants that remain are found only in specific soil conditions on 8 ha (21 acres) spread across 8 km2 (3 sq miles) of Nevada in a narrow elevation band between 1,816 and 1,889 m (5,960 and 6,200 ft), according to the petition filed Oct. 7 seeking protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Ioneer argued in court filings that it has maintained at least 60 m (200 ft) of separation between its activities and the nearest plants, with three exceptions. In those cases, it said it came within 15 m (50 ft) and placed appropriate protective measures to ensure none was disturbed.
“Not a single plant has been harmed,” the company said.
“Ioneer applied considerable resources to study the plant and development plans to ensure that the plants thrive during Ioneer's activities and after the exploration is complete,” it said. “Plaintiff makes unsupported claims regarding species extinction.”