Ioneer advances to final stage of US federal permitting for Rhyolite Ridge lithium project
Emerging lithium-boron supplier Ioneer (ASX: INR) has confirmed its Rhyolite Ridge project in Nevada has advanced to the final stage of federal permitting with a decision by the US Bureau of Land Management to publish a notice of intent (NOI) in the federal register.
It 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 Rhyolite Ridge and will become the basis for compliance during operations and closure.
The company commenced working on it almost four years ago.
The latest revision was submitted to the Bureau in July and showed there would be no project-related direct impacts to any of the sub-populations of Eriogonum tiehmii (or Tiehm’s buckwheat), which is a species of flowering plant endemic to Esmeralda County.
Ioneer executive chairman James Calaway said Rhyolite Ridge is believed to be the first lithium project to be issued with a NOI under the Biden administration.
“We see this as a significant step toward ensuring a strong domestic supply of critical minerals and strategic materials needed for development of a domestic battery supply chain which will be essential to the electrification of transportation in the US,” he said.
The Bureau can only approve a plan once an environmental review is completed under NEPA regulations.
Rhyolite Ridge now moves into the public review and comment phase of the process, which kicked off with publication of the NOI.
Environmental contractor and top tier global design and delivery firm Stantec will use comments received during scoping and resource information gathered by Ioneer to prepare an environmental impact statement.
The process will culminate in the Bureau’s Record of Decision (ROD), which represents the Department of Interior’s final decision on ioneer’s application for an approved plan of operations.
Approval is expected in early 2024, after which ioneer will be permitted to commence construction at Rhyolite Ridge.
Long-term source of lithium
Rhyolite Ridge has been engineered to ensure a stable, long-term and 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 the project, Ioneer will help create a domestic supply of lithium for auto makers, quadrupling the current domestic supply which is critical to meeting climate goals established by the Biden administration.
Rhyolite Ridge is expected to positively impact Nevada’s economy by creating up to 500 construction jobs and 300 operating jobs.