Australia-based ioneer (ASX: INR)(Nasdaq: IONR) said on Monday its flagship Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project in Nevada has advanced into the final stage of federal permitting.
The company said the decision by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to publish a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register, was a major milestone towards completing the permitting for the proposed mine.
“This marks a major milestone toward the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and approval of the project’s plan of operations,” it said in the statement.
The plan of operations is the foundational permitting document for the project and will become the basis for compliance during operations and closure, the company said.
ioneer has faced some setbacks when trying to obtain federal permits because public lands near its Rhyolite Ridge asset are home to the endangered wildflower Tiehm’s buckwheat.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently designated the pale yellow flower as an endangered species, which the company welcomed as, it said, the decision provided “further clarity for the path forward for the development of the Rhyolite Ridge project.”
The company had submitted in July a revised plan of operations for the project that will protect the wildflower while the mine is being built.
“We understand the Rhyolite Ridge project is the first lithium project to be issued a Notice of Intent under the Biden administration,” executive Chairman James Calaway said.
“We see this as a significant step toward ensuring a strong domestic supply of critical minerals and strategic materials necessary for development of a domestic battery supply chain essential to the electrification of transportation in the US,” he noted.
ioneer inked a supply deal in July with Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, a battery joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic, to provide 4,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year in the first five years of production.
It also signed a deal with Ford for 7,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate annually for five years. ioneer aims to produce about 21,000 tonnes of lithium a year in Nevada starting in 2025.
Rhyolite Ridge is the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and one of only two known such deposits in the world.