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Ioneer suspends work at Nev. lithium project after deal with environmental group

Australia's ioneer Ltd. signed a deal with an environmental group to stop new activities at its Rhyolite Ridge lithium project in Nevada in exchange for the withdrawal of a lawsuit that seeks to protect a rare desert wildflower, the Associated Press reported Jan. 6.

After reaching an agreement with Ioneer USA Corp., the Center for Biological Diversity reportedly notified the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas that it was dropping a lawsuit against the Trump administration that had sought to ban all drilling and road building on federal land at the site.

The legal action accused the U.S. Bureau of Land Management of illegally dividing Rhyolite Ridge into two projects to bypass its own regulations requiring an environmental review and public comment on any land disturbances larger than 5 acres, the report said.

The lawsuit reportedly stems from the group's plan to have Tiehm's buckwheat recognized as an endangered species, the report said. The state of Nevada is said to be launching a comprehensive review of the wildflower, which is only found in the Silver Peak range near the project.

The company ceased exploration activities in December 2019, and the BLM has terminated ioneer's exploration notices, which means the company cannot resume operations until the agency approves a new operation plan, the report said.

As part of the deal, ioneer said it would not seek such approval without notifying the environmental group, and it agreed to use only handheld equipment for reclamation activities near the plant, according to the report.

In December 2019 court filings, ioneer reportedly argued that it has maintained a distance of at least 200 feet between its activities and the nearest plants. There were three exceptions, although the company said it used appropriate measures to protect the plants.