Ioneer's Rhyolite Ridge Project Advances into Final Stage of Permitting
Ioneer Ltd, an emerging lithium-boron supplier has announced that its Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmeralda County, NV has advanced into the final stage of federal permitting with the decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to publish a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register. This marks a major milestone toward the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and approval of the project’s plan of operations.
The plan is the foundational permitting document for the project and will become the basis for compliance during operations and closure; Ioneer commenced work on the plan almost four years ago. The latest revised plan was submitted to the BLM in July 2022. Under the revised plan, there are no project-related direct impacts to any of the subpopulations of Tiehm’s buckwheat.
Ioneer’s executive chair James Calaway said, “We understand the Rhyolite Ridge Project is the first lithium project to be issued a notice of intent under the Biden administration, and we see this as a significant step toward ensuring a strong domestic supply of critical minerals and strategic materials necessary for development of a domestic battery supply chain essential to the electrification of transportation in the U.S.”
BLM determined that the plan was complete on August 17, 2022. However, BLM cannot approve the plan until an environmental review is completed under NEPA. With work on the plan completed and the NOI issued, the project moves into the public review and comment phase of the NEPA process.
To optimize the revised plan and allow for mining to commence at the southern limits of the deposit, Ioneer will undertake further drilling activity at the southern extension of the ore body as soon as a positive record of decision is received. Ioneer intends to complete the drilling, optimize the mine plan and update capital and operating cost estimates before making a final investment decision. This work is underway, with the exception of the drilling program. The 24-month construction estimate remains unchanged, with first production expected in 2026.
Ioneer Managing Director Bernard Rowe said, “The NOI marks an important milestone toward the realization of the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project and reflects the hard work and dedication of the Ioneer and Stantec teams working closely with the BLM and cooperating agencies.
“Our project is uniquely positioned in the U.S., and has been engineered to ensure a stable, long-term, environmentally sustainable source of lithium. The project is expected to produce sufficient lithium to allow for the manufacture of approximately 400,000 electric vehicles per year over many decades. In delivering this world-class project, Ioneer will help the U.S. create a domestic supply of lithium for auto manufacturers, quadrupling the current domestic supply, critical to meeting the climate goals established by the Biden administration, while also positively impacting the Nevada economy by creating 400-500 construction jobs and 250-300 operating jobs to help diversify the Nevada economy.”
Last year, Ioneer secured the two other key permits required to commence construction on Rhyolite Ridge: a state-based Air Quality Permit (received June 24, 2021) and a state-based Water Pollution permit (received July 19, 2021).
Image courtesy of Ioneer.