weather icon Clear

There’s more lithium, boron at Rhyolite Ridge mine than expected

ESMERALDA COUNTY — Mining officials with the massive Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project say the site holds as much as 168 percent more lithium and 18 percent more boron than previously reported.

The discovery underscores the growth potential for the domestic-energy supply chain, according to Australia-based Ioneer Ltd. officials, who are billing Rhyolite Ridge as the “most advanced undeveloped lithium project” in the U.S.

“Rhyolite Ridge is ideally placed to play a pivotal role in the electrification of transportation in the U.S. in production — it will support the rapidly developing domestic lithium battery supply chain and lead innovation and sustainability in the production of materials critical to a clean energy future,” mining officials highlighted in the company’s latest report.

Earlier this month, Ioneer officials announced a partnership with Reno-based Dragonfly Energy Holdings Corp., manufacturers and suppliers of deep-cycle lithium-ion batteries for RVs, boats and off-grid installations and storage applications. Ioneer officials say it will further “strengthen U.S. battery supply chains and invest in the production and manufacturing of Nevada-sourced lithium.”

The partnership builds on the state’s efforts to produce, utilize and recycle lithium — essentially closing the “lithium loop” that Gov. Joe Lombardo has prioritized under his administration’s strategic five-year plan.

“This agreement between Dragonfly Energy and Ioneer — and hopefully more like it in the future — are vital to our economy as we work to develop this new industry, secure Nevada’s energy independence,” Gov. Lombardo said. “In the future, we hope to see more Nevada companies creating innovative partnerships like this one, which will help strengthen our economy and demonstrate how Nevada is the lithium capital of North America.”

The Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project contains the only known lithium-boron deposits on the continent and one of only two known such deposits in the world.

Demand for lithium batteries in the U.S. is expected to grow more than six times and translate into $55 billion per year by the end of the decade, according to a report from public-private engineering research alliance Li-Bridge, which monitors the domestic supply chain for lithium-based batteries.

Still the U.S. is expected to depend on imports for supply, the report added.

“As the world’s demand for lithium in electric vehicle and energy storage increases, the need to secure a reliable, sustainable, and domestic source of lithium is critical,” said Bernard Rowe, managing director and CEO at Ioneer, noting how its partnership with Dragonfly would help provide these critical materials from Rhyolite Ridge to a global customer base.

In January, Ioneer officials confirmed they had been approved for a loan of up to $700 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for its project, about 40 miles west of Goldfield.

The project is expected to create 400-500 construction jobs and 250-300 operating jobs, according to company officials.

The 10-year loan will come with a fixed-interest rate and is the first of its kind under the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program for mineral extraction. It signifies the Biden administration’s efforts to build a critical industry here that will help to reduce U.S. reliance on Chinese minerals, while curbing carbon emissions and helping to meet ambitious climate-change goals.

Ioneer officials say the mine will generate more than a half-billion to $1.3 billion in tax revenue for the local communities and Nevada over its lifetime.

Ioneer officials have said they hope to receive a greenlight to commence construction sometime in the first quarter of 2024. Under a timeline provided by the company, the mine’s production could begin as early as 2026.

The life expectancy of the Rhyolite Ridge mine is projected to be 26 years.

Contact Editor Brent Schanding at bschanding@ptimes.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Dilger wins Jim Butler Days tournament

Tonopah hosted its Jim Butler Days festival over the Memorial Day weekend where the Nevada State Horseshoe Pitchers Association held a sanctioned tournament at the Joe Friel Sports Complex.

Nye County school superintendent to leave district in June

A Nye County resident said he felt the school district had recovered from the pandemic slower than the rest of the state under the superintendent’s leadership.

Tonopah woman charged with burning down neighbor’s trailer

Nye County Sheriff’s deputies say Tanya Breedlove Carter had “made threats” to her neighbor that she was “going to burn down their trailer” and was seen leaving the property on May 11, just minutes before the fire was reported.

Environmentalists: Lawsuit will help protect rare toad

This rare toad is found at just one spring-fed wetland complex in Nye County’s Railroad Valley on about 445 acres and is isolated from other toads by miles of arid desert.

5-acre OHV area in Tonopah completed

The 5-acre facility now includes an information kiosk, two shade structures and an all-weather vault toilet, surrounded by newly compacted gravel to provide parking for off-roaders exploring Nevada’s back country.

Why Nye County is reluctant to gift a 3-acre lot in Tonopah for construction of new hospital

Northern Nye County Hospital District trustees are asking the Nye County Commission for a 3.21-acre parcel of land adjacent to the former Nye Regional Medical Center that they say would aid in the construction of new health care facilities for Tonopah. Commissioners question why they should not have to pay for the site.

Nevada Senate OKs medically assisted suicide

Physician-assisted suicide is a step closer to being legal in Nevada after senators voted on a razor-thin margin to advance a resolution Wednesday.