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BLM won’t say what’s in plan to protect wildflower at lithium mine site

A contentious proposed lithium mine in central Nevada is advancing to the next stage of the federal permitting process, but the Bureau of Land Management has been stingy with details on conserving an endangered wildflower.

In a release Friday morning, BLM leaders lauded its outreach to Native American tribes and the agency’s work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to cause the least harm possible to Tiehm’s buckwheat, the wildflower found nowhere else in the world than near the project site.

“We know the importance of responsible mineral development in Nevada, and we look forward to hearing the public’s feedback on this draft assessment,” BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby said in the statement.

However, a spokesman said the draft environmental impact statement explaining how the mine in Esmeralda County will progress wouldn’t be publicly available until April 19, alarming some environmentalists who see the release as a way to garner positive press for a the mine without being transparent about specifics.

“It’s another in a long series of coordinated media stunts with BLM and the mining company to put forward their false narrative,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Without the opportunity to review the document, it’s unclear whether the mining company’s plan to disturb 20 percent of the wildflower’s critical habitat is moving forward — something Donnelly has said his organization would take to court to protect the species.

Ioneer, the Australian mining company that has spent more than $172 million on prospecting the project, didn’t provide any more information, but it said it looks forward to seeing the publicly released document.

The proposed project hopes to harness North America’s largest known deposit of lithium-boron in an area known as Rhyolite Ridge. Lithium, used in electric vehicle batteries, is a key mineral for the Biden administration’s vision for a national green energy transition.

So far, there’s only one active lithium mine in the U.S. — Silver Peak, which is near the proposed Ioneer site in the same rural county. Environmental advocates are tracking more than 80 proposed lithium projects in Nevada.

When the document becomes available, anyone interested in providing input on the plan will be able to within 45 days, according to the National Environmental Policy Act. Instructions on how to do so by June 3 can be found on the BLM website for the project.

Contact Alan at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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