Here’s how Ioneer could produce more lithium from Rhyolite Ridge, which is already going to increase US supply fourfold
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North American lithium hopeful Ioneer has inked a fresh agreement with its Korean-based hydroxide conversion partner as the start of construction nears for its flagship Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project in rural Nevada.
Ioneer (ASX: INR) and EcoPro Innovation have signed a new MOU to conduct research and development on the lithium clay resource at Rhyolite Ridge with a longer-term view of commercialising this distinct style of mineralisation and ultimately producing refined lithium materials for the burgeoning US electric vehicle battery supply chain.
Under the Stage 1 production plans for the project, the lithium clay mineralisation will be extracted and set aside while the focus is on the searlesite mineralisation which hosts both high lithium and high boron content.
Any future production from the activities contemplated in the MOU will be incremental to the forecast Stage 1 output of 20,600 tpa lithium carbonate and 174,400 tpa boric acid.
This phase of operations currently has a 26-year mine life.
As part of the MOU, EcoPro will fund and build a commercial-scale refining plant for the lithium clay resource at Rhyolite Ridge.
Lithium clay is expected be supplied at no cost to EcoPro, with profits to be equally shared between the revered battery-grade lithium hydroxide producer and the owners of Rhyolite Ridge.
Ioneer executive chairman James Calaway said the company looked forward to building on its existing partnership with EcoPro through the potentially accelerated development of another layer of Rhyolite Ridge mineralisation.
“This partnership provides Ioneer additional financial flexibility to focus on delivering its core investment at Rhyolite Ridge as well as develop growth opportunities,” Calaway said. “The ultimate goal of EcoPro and Ioneer is to increase the supply of refined lithium materials for the US electric vehicle supply chain and create hundreds of good-paying jobs in Nevada and beyond.”
Those sentiments were echoed by EcoPro Innovation president Anthony Kim, who holds high hopes for the group’s patented lithium extraction technology.
“Lithium extraction technology is not just a process of selectively extracting lithium but a complex and difficult technology that requires removing uncertain impurities,” Kim said.
“EcoPro Innovation is a technology-competitive company with a number of source patents in hydromet processes. We will perform well as soon as possible to gain the upper hand from other competitors.”
Stage 1 production from Rhyolite Ridge is expected to quadruple the current US supply of lithium, while also helping rebalance the global production of boric acid.
First production is expected in 2026 with construction set to begin next year following the imminent completion of the US federal permitting process.
Construction at Rhyolite Ridge will be largely funded via a $US490 million equity commitment from Ioneer’s joint venture partner Sibanye-Stillwater and a $US700 million conditional loan from the US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office.
The key permitting milestone for the company remains the record of decision by the US Bureau of Land Management, slated for mid-2024.
This article was developed in collaboration with Ioneer, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.