“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 said in February it planned to designate about 910 acres near the project as a critical habitat for the pale yellow flower.
The company 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.