ioneer Ltd (ioneer or the Company) an emerging lithium–boron supplier, announced that it has formally submitted its Project Plan of Operations (Plan) to the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the Company’s proposed Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project (Project) in Nevada, which holds the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America, and one of only two known such deposits in the world.
Submission of the Plan is a significant step toward Project approval. Once the Plan has been reviewed for completeness and the BLM has registered a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, it may initiate the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) preparation and public engagement process as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). BLM has contracted Stantec to prepare and complete the Rhyolite Ridge EIS.
The Plan includes 14 baselines studies completed by ioneer and its specialist consultants over a 2-year period. Areas of study include air quality, biology, cultural resources, groundwater, recreation, socioeconomics, soils and rangeland.
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The NEPA process is designed to consider the environmental impact of a proposed project such as Rhyolite Ridge and seeks to inform the public of potential impacts and alternatives.
The Project will produce lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide and boric acid using off-grid, internally generated zero carbon dioxide (CO2) power, resulting in a process plant with low emissions of greenhouse gases and minimal hazardous air pollutants. The final processing design was derived after thousands of hours of bench and pilot plant tests with Kemetco Research, and extensive work by the Project’s engineering team, led by Fluor.
Water usage associated with the mineral extraction process is extremely low as compared to other lithium producers that utilize solar evaporation extraction for brine operations. The design is based on the recycling of the majority of water used, which further reduces make-up water demand. Low-energy consumption substantially reduced water usage, and a relatively small surface footprint make Rhyolite Ridge a sustainable, environmentally friendly operation.
In addition to an environmentally friendly mining operation, the Company is committed to protecting the local flora and fauna. Under one such initiative, ioneer has developed the Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection Plan, which is a critical component of the Rhyolite Ridge environmental assessment and approval process. On 9 April, ioneer announced that it had expanded its research agreement with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), funding a five-year study focused on the successful propagation and growth of Tiehm’s buckwheat in its natural habitat at Rhyolite Ridge.
The Rhyolite Ridge Project will also have a tremendous positive economic impact on Esmeralda County, adjacent counties, the state of Nevada and the entire country over multiple decades. In the near term, it is expected to create 400-500 construction jobs and 200-300 high-paying operating jobs. Rhyolite Ridge is a large deposit and is expected to produce enough lithium to supply 400,000 Electric Vehicles annually.
ioneer’s Managing Director, Bernard Rowe said:
“After working closely with the BLM for the last 18 months, we are pleased to have compiled all the baseline studies and the Plan of Operations in support of the NEPA process. We look forward to a timely review by the BLM and issuance of the Notice of Intent.
“Nevada’s economic health is dependent on its robust natural resources. Increased demand for critical minerals to combat global climate change and reduce carbon emissions requires an innovative response to the environmental stewardship of all resources. ioneer continues to demonstrate its commitment to meeting this responsibility at the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project. The U.S. and Nevada have prioritized the need for a domestic lithium-ion battery supply chain and with little current supply, development of this Project will be crucial to meeting this important goal. I truly believe Rhyolite Ridge will be a model for modern, environmentally responsible mining.”
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