The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a rule to list Tiehm’s buckwheat – which surrounds ioneer’s (ASX:INR) Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project in Nevada – as an endangered species.

The company’s share price dropped slightly despite managing director Bernard Rowe stating ioneer expected the outcome and was always prepared to manage and protect the buckwheat population.

“We welcome and fully support the decisions by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the work it and the BLM are undertaking to safeguard Tiehm’s buckwheat,” he said.

“ioneer reiterates its commitment to preservation of this species.

“From the beginning, the Rhyolite Ridge operation has been designed and planned to incorporate the conservation and protection of Tiehm’s buckwheat.

“We have always firmly understood the need to protect this species, irrespective of its listing status, given its small population and limited geographic spread along the edges of the area we operate in.”

Confident of successful coexistence at Rhyolite Ridge

Rowe said the company has invested considerable funds into undertaking comprehensive studies into Tiehm’s buckwheat management strategies to ensure the species is not only protected but that its populations are expanded in the years to come.

“ioneer will ensure the necessary measures are in place to mitigate any potential impacts of its operations and natural threats to the plant in its environment,” he said.

“Core to our strategy is avoidance where possible and minimisation of any disturbance by our operations.

“Our propagation, transplant and translocation programs will not only see populations expanded but reduce the risk to the plant from further climate-related impacts and herbivory.

“Based upon the best available science, we are highly confident that with a combination of avoidance, propagation and translocation, as has been successfully demonstrated with other mat buckwheat species in the region, we can achieve the successful coexistence of Tiehm’s buckwheat and our environmentally significant project, which will supply critically needed lithium products in the US.”

Joint venture with Sibanye Stillwater

Last month the company entered a 50/50 joint venture agreement with Sibanye Stillwater Ltd to advance the Rhyolite Ridge project.

Sibanye-Stillwater will contribute $US490 million to the JV, while ioneer will relinquish 50% control of the project.

ioneer entered into a subscription agreement with Sibanye-Stillwater for a strategic placement of US$70 million of ioneer ordinary shares.

The project is expected to come onstream in 2024 with ioneer as operator.