Rare flower to get protected area near ioneer nevada lithium mine

The Tiehm buckwheat plant is seen in this undated photo provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Courtesy of USFWS/Sarah Kulpa/Handout via REUTERS

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Feb 2 (Reuters) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will permanently mark off 910 acres (368 hectares) near ioneer Ltd’s (INR.AX) proposed lithium mine in Nevada to preserve a rare flower, a major step forward in the project’s offer to proceed.

Ioneer aims to build one of the largest lithium mines in the United States and produce the metal for the electric vehicle battery. The protection plan is expected to be filed Thursday in the Federal Register and will then be open for 60 days for public comment.

The mysterious death of more than 17,000 Tiehm buckwheat flowers near the mine site in 2020 sparked claims by conservationists of a “premeditated” attack in which the plants – found nowhere else on earth – were “dug up and destroyed”.

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An Australia-based Ionist has denied harming the flowers. The Fish and Wildlife Service later blamed the thirsty squirrels.

Nevertheless, conservationists have lobbied for the flower to be declared endangered. Regulators agreed last fall, dealing a blow to the project, which sits on federal land about 225 miles (362 km) north of Las Vegas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said in the filing that the 910-acre (368-hectare) area is necessary to ensure the plants’ survival. But, in a nudge for ioneer, they added that the area is “expected to have no significant economic impact” on nearby business activity.

The company still needs to get permits, though that hasn’t stopped funding its efforts or scared off customers.

Ioneer has long said he believes he can protect the flower, even if he has to change his mining plans.

“This planned development has no material impact on our planned mining operations,” said James Calaway, President of ioneer.

Conservationists have acknowledged that acreage designation is unlikely to stop.

“There is a good possibility that there will one day be a lithium mine in this area,” said Patrick Donnelly of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has opposed the project.

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Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; additional reporting by Sébastien Malo; edited by Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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