NEPA Process Overview
Before construction at Rhyolite Ridge can begin, we must first obtain approval from the federal government under the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act, commonly known as the NEPA process.
In Preparation for the NEPA process, Ioneer has to date:
- Completed baseline studies and associated field work for 14 different resource areas of Rhyolite Ridge Project (e.g., air quality, biology, cultural resources, groundwater, recreation, socioeconomics, soils, and rangeland).
- Submitted the required Plan of Operations (Plan), which includes measures to be implemented to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of public lands by operations authorized under the Mining Act (1872). It describes all aspects of the project including construction, operations, reclamation, and environmental protection measures.
Environmental stewardship is core to Ioneer’s mission. We are committed to investing time and resources into minimizing potential impacts of our Project to local flora and fauna. Under the NEPA process, the federal government assesses, reviews and approves our plans to mitigate any project impacts on the environment.
This approval will specify what we must undertake to comply with all relevant laws during operations, and our plan to close and reclaim the area once mining is complete.
In August 2020, our Plan of Operations was submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Following consultation and guidance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the BLM, we submitted a revised Plan of Operations to the BLM in July, 2022 to reflect the modification of the initial mining quarry so as to avoid all known populations of the Tiehm’s buckwheat. The Plan has been deemed complete by the BLM and will serve as the guiding document for compliance throughout operations and closure of the mine.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT RHYOLITE RIDGE
- During the 2-year construction period the Project will employ 400-500 workers, and 250-300 long-term jobs once in operation with median total compensation levels of ~$141,000 according to Applied Analysis estimates.
- Rhyolite Ridge is estimated to contribute approximately $15 – $25 million in taxes to state and local governments during construction. Once in operation, Applied Analysis estimates that the project will contribute $13 – $35 million annually through property taxes, net proceeds on minerals, and other taxes and fees.
- Due to the unique ore found at Rhyolite Ridge, the water usage associated with the production of lithium is much lower compared to current domestic production. The process is designed to recycle the majority of water usage, further reducing water demand.
- The unique searlesite ore also can be processed in such a way that there is no need for tailings dams or evaporation ponds.
- The design of Rhyolite Ridge’s processing facility will allow the company to produce sufficient electricity to power its processing operations, meaning zero-reliance on the electrical grid.
- Lithium and boron that will be sourced from Rhyolite Ridge are two materials essential for the increased deployment of clean technologies and sustainability.
- Lithium specifically is listed by the U.S. government as critical mineral given its importance to national defense, and our current dependence on foreign countries to provide it. Sourcing both lithium and boron materials domestically is important to U.S. national security.
- By sourcing lithium locally for use in the U.S. battery supply chain, the environmental impact of shipping across oceans is considerably reduced. Ioneer has signed three binding offtake agreements with some of the largest car manufacturers in the world to supply Nevada lithium for US Vehicles: Ford Motor Company, Prime Planet Energy and Solutions (a joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic), and EcoPro Innovation.
- Nevada has become home to an increasing number of lithium-ion battery manufacturers – lending tremendous opportunity to create jobs across the supply chain throughout Nevada. Ioneer has entered into Memorandums of Understanding with Dragonfly Energy in Reno, Nextech Batteries in Carson City, and Lithion in Henderson in an effort to bolster the State’s and the US domestic lithium battery supply chain.
Notice of Intent (NOI)
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published a NOI to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Rhyolite Ridge project.
Public Scoping Process
The BLM hosted two scoping meetings regarding the Project.
Wednesday, January 4th at 2:00PM PST
Thursday, January 5th at 5:00PM PST
The Scoping Period Concluded March 6, 2023
Draft EIS (DEIS)
After initial public comments are received and reviewed, the BLM will develop a DEIS that will describe any potential impacts to the environment and how Ioneer plans to offset or mitigate them.
Following issuance of the DEIS, the public will then be provided another opportunity to review and comment on it. The BLM will use these comments to either conduct further analysis of the plan which may require us to modify any mitigation plans.
Final EIS (FEIS)
After comments on the DEIS have been collected and reviewed, the BLM will publish a FEIS and draft Record of Decision (ROD).
Comments on the FEIS and ROD will be collected and reviewed by the BLM. Changes may be made in response to comments.
Issuance of ROD
The BLM will then issue a Record of Decision indicating acceptance of Ioneer’s plan. The public is then provided with an opportunity to object to this decision and the BLM is required to respond and address any concerns raised. Once this process is complete and ioneer receives a final Record of Decision, the BLM can issue a final approved plan of operations.
In addition to the NEPA permitting process, Ioneer is required to receive permits from other authorities. Two key Nevada State permits are the Water Pollution Control Permit and the Class II Air Quality Permit, which were issued by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection in July and June 2021, respectively. Accordingly, Rhyolite Ridge is the first developmental lithium project in Nevada to receive both of these two key permits.
Once all necessary permits, including the federal Record of Decision, are received, construction of the Rhyolite Ridge project can proceed.