Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Project advances in environmental review, aims for construction start

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Ioneer Ltd (ASX: INR, NASDAQ: IONR) has reached a significant milestone in its efforts to begin construction at the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron site in Esmeralda County, Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the planned issuance of the project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on April 12, 2024, marking the first such draft under the Biden Administration aimed at boosting domestic lithium production. This move is critical as it brings the project closer to contributing essential materials to the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) battery production supply chain.

The draft EIS, set for public release on April 19, outlines Ioneer’s adjustments to its project plans to minimize environmental impacts, notably relocating activities to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat, an endangered plant species. The report will also cover the company’s conservation investments and a formal protection strategy for the Nevada plant, which has been a focal point of collaboration with federal, state, and local agencies, including Tribal Nations.

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Following the draft EIS’s publication, a 45-day public comment period will begin, featuring BLM-organized meetings to gather feedback. The input will inform the final EIS and Record of Decision (ROD), expected in October 2024. A positive ROD will green-light the project’s construction, anticipating the start of production by 2027.

Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Project advances in environmental review, aims for construction start

Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Project advances in environmental review, aims for construction start

Ioneer’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its ongoing efforts to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat, with a total of $2.5 million invested in conservation to date and a further $1 million pledged annually. The company’s redesigned project will also feature an independent energy system, relying on steam generated from on-site processing, and a water recycling system that negates the need for evaporation ponds or tailings dams.

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The Rhyolite Ridge Project is poised to be a significant source of lithium and boron, crucial for powering approximately 50 million electric vehicles. The project stands out not only for its scale and low-cost operations but also for its strategic partnerships, including a joint venture with Sibanye-Stillwater and offtake agreements with major automotive and battery manufacturers like Ford Motor Company and the PPES joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic.

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The progression of Ioneer Ltd’s Rhyolite Ridge project is a textbook example of how rigorous environmental planning and community engagement can align with significant industrial development. The project not only emphasizes the importance of sustainable mining practices but also demonstrates the potential for integrated industrial operations to support the broader clean energy transition.

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