Nevada lithium mining project clears key hurdle amid soaring demand

Lithium Batteries-Future
In this Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 photo, an evaporation pond system is shown during a tour of the Silver Peak lithium mine near Tonopah, Nev. (Steve Marcus /Las Vegas Sun via AP) Steve Marcus/AP

Nevada lithium mining project clears key hurdle amid soaring demand

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U.S. lithium supplier Ioneer said Monday that its Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron mining project in Nevada has advanced to the final stages of federal permitting, a milestone that puts it on track to begin production in 2026 amid soaring demand for the critical mineral stoked by the Democratic climate law.

The project is the first lithium development project in the United States to advance to the final stage of federal permitting under the Biden administration.

Lithium demand has skyrocketed alongside a growing push for electric vehicle adoption. According to a Benchmark analysis, demand is forecast to rise to a whopping 2.4 million tonnes LCE, or lithium carbonate equivalent, in 2030 — far higher than the 600,000 tons expected to be produced in 2022.


Ioneer announced the news Monday after the Bureau of Land Management said it would publish a notice of intent in the Federal Register to begin preparation of an environmental impact statement. The step is considered a significant advancement toward completing the National Environmental Policy Act review process and approving the Rhyolite Ridge project’s plan of operations.

“We understand the Rhyolite Ridge Project is the first lithium project to be issued a Notice of Intent under the Biden administration,” Ioneer CEO James Calaway said in a statement. “[And] 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 U.S.”

The Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron deposit is the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and one of only two known deposits in the world.

Its momentum comes as the Biden administration has raced to build out a domestic supply chain for electric vehicle manufacturing and to meet strict sourcing requirements for electric vehicle batteries included in the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate bill passed by Democrats with hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for clean technologies.

Earlier this year, Ioneer signed a deal to supply 4,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually for five years to Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, the joint battery venture between Toyota and Panasonic.

It also reached a supply agreement with Ford in July to supply 7,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually for five years.

The company had struggled to get permits earlier in the process due to its proximity to Tiehm’s buckwheat, an endangered wildflower protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In response, Ioneer submitted a revised plan of operations for the project in July.

The work they’ve done to protect the species “meets the highest standards you could possibly imagine,” Calaway said in a recent interview.


“When you talk about, ‘We want to have mining done responsibly,’ I just don’t know how a company could have been more responsive and more open to solving the problems that the Fish and Wildlife and BLM have,” he added. “And [Ioneer’s work] certainly should satisfy any reasonable environmentalists that we’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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