Australia-headquartered explorer ioneer (ASX: INR) confirmed global precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater has received approval from South Africa’s Reserve Bank to invest in the US-based Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project.
The approvals refer to Sibanye’s US$490 million investment for a 50% interest in ioneer’s US-based project, as well as a US$70 million strategic placement to Sibanye of ioneer ordinary shares.
Reserve Bank approval was a condition of the joint venture transaction and the share placement.
The placement is conditional on ioneer shareholder approval at an extraordinary general meeting later this month, as well as other customary conditions precedent.
The remaining conditions – including the receipt of necessary permits and binding debt funding commitments – are expected to be satisfied in the second half of 2022.
ioneer managing director Bernard Rowe welcomed the approvals.
“We are delighted to have reached this important milestone and look forward to working with Sibanye-Stillwater to satisfy the remaining conditions across both transactions including the shareholder vote in relation to the placement this week,” he said.
“Receiving these approvals represents the first step in our long-term partnership with Sibanye-Stillwater, which we expect will unlock significant value at Rhyolite Ridge.”
Rhyolite Ridge is a large and shallow lithium-boron deposit located close to existing infrastructure in southern Nevada’s sparsely-populated Esmeralda County.
A definitive feasibility study completed last year validated the project as a “world-class resource with significant value creation potential” due to its low-cost, large-scale operation and long mine life.
The low-clay, low-carbonate, high-searlesite (boron) content of rock at Rhyolite Ridge means ioneer can use dilute sulphuric acid to leach out the metals, differentiating it from other sediment-hosted lithium deposits.
The project’s lithium-boron mineral resource is estimated at 146.5 million tonnes, including an ore reserve of 60Mt, representing an increase in reserves from the pre-feasibility study of 280%.
ioneer expects to mine and process 63.8Mt over a 26-year life at an average annual rate of 2.5Mt per year.