Rhyolite Ridge Lithium Mining planning in Nevada gains DOE $700M conditional loan

Jan. 13, 2023
The project is expected to produce enough lithium domestically to allow for the manufacture of around 400,000 electric vehicles annually. It would initially employ about 600 construction jobs and 250 operations workers thereafter

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has offered a conditional $700 million in credit for a project to develop a lithium mining site in Nevada.

The DOE announced Friday that its LPO has offered the conditional commitment to the Ioneer Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmeralda, Nevada. It would finance on-site processing of lithium carbonate to support a U.S. supply chain for electric vehicle batteries.

Earlier, Ioneer announced that the Rholite Ridge project had entered into the final stage of permitting, following the publication of a notice of intent (NOI) in the federal register by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The project is expected to produce enough lithium domestically to allow for the manufacture of around 400,000 electric vehicles annually. It would initially employ about 600 construction jobs and 250 operations workers thereafter, according to reports.

The DOE conditional commitment to Rhyolite Ridge follows recent loans by the LPO to Syrah Vidalia and Ultium Cells. The former and latter recipients would process active anode material and manufacture battery cells, respectively.

The Biden Administration has awarded about $2.8 billion in recent funding for battery-related mining, process and manufacturing projects in the U.S.

See EnergyTech's coverage of Battery Manufacturing moving into the U.S.

Read about the Ioneer Rhyolite Ridge project

Ioneer says Rhyolite Ridge is the first lithium project to be issued the notice of intent under the Biden term.

“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.,” Ioneer's Executive Chairman James Calaway was quoted in the earlier story.

The company says it can now focus on completing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and seeking approval for the project's plan of operations. It started working on the plan, which is the foundational permitting document for the project, nearly four years ago.

The plan will also serve as the basis for compliance during operations and closure. Ioneer said it will update the plan to reflect the outcomes of the NEPA review before it is finalised for the BLM's Record of Decision (ROD), which marks the Department of Interior's final decision on Ioneer's application for an approved plan of operations.

Ioneer expects to receive the approval to begin construction by the first quarter of 2024. The firm also plans to undertake further drilling activity at the southern extension of the ore body. The project is expected to come online in 2026.

Lithium is a key component in the current chemistry of utility-scale battery storage technologies. Ambitious e-mobility and energy storage goals in the U.S. are pushing for opening more domestic sourcing for the element, since the nation currently has only one operating lithium mine, in Nevada.

“In delivering this world-class project, Ioneer will help the U.S. create a domestic supply of lithium for auto manufacturers, quadrupling the current domestic supply, critical to meeting the climate goals established by the Biden administration, while also positively impacting the Nevada economy by creating 400-500 construction jobs and 250-300 operating jobs to help diversify the Nevada economy,” Ioneer Managing Director Bernard Rowe said last year.

The company secured a state-based air quality permit and a state-based water pollution permit for the Rhyolite Ridge project in 2021. Ioneer chose Veolia Water Technologies for engineering and equipment supply to the planned dewatering facility at the Rhyolite project.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 15-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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About the Author

Rod Walton, EnergyTech Managing Editor | Senior Editor

For EnergyTech editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

Rod Walton has spent 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. He formerly was energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World. Later, he spent six years covering the electricity power sector for Pennwell and Clarion Events. He joined Endeavor and EnergyTech in November 2021.

Walton earned his Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. His career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World. 

EnergyTech is focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

He was named Managing Editor for Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech starting July 1, 2023

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.