ioneer Ltd (ASX:INR) has formally submitted its Project Plan of Operations to the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the proposed Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Nevada.
The plan includes 14 baseline studies completed by ioneer and its specialist consultants over a two-year period, covering air quality, biology, cultural resources, groundwater, recreation, socioeconomics, soils, and rangeland.
ioneer managing director Bernard Rowe said: “After working closely with the BLM for the last two years, 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.”
Once the plan has been reviewed for completeness and the BLM has registered a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register this may initiate the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) preparation and public engagement process as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Environmental Impact Statement
The NEPA process is designed to consider the environmental impact of a proposed project and 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 power, resulting in a process plant with low emissions of greenhouse gases and minimal hazardous air pollutants.
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 and is based on recycling the majority of water used.
The company has also developed the Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection Plan with the University of Nevada, Reno, funding a five-year study focused on the successful propagation and growth of Tiehm’s buckwheat in its natural habitat at Rhyolite Ridge.
This is a critical component of the project's environmental assessment and approval process.
Positive economic impact
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.
Rowe said: “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.”
In the near term, the project is expected to create 400-500 construction jobs and 200-300 high-paying operating jobs.
“Domestic supply chain”
Rhyolite Ridge holds the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and is expected to produce enough lithium to supply around 400,000 Electric Vehicles annually.
Rowe said: “The US and Nevada have prioritised 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.”