US advances plan to protect Nevada flower near lithium project

Tiehm’s buckwheat plant can be seen in this undated photo provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Courtesy of USFWS / Sarah Kulpa / Document via REUTERS

Oct. 1 (Reuters) – The US Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday released a proposed rule to classify Tiehm’s buckwheat flower as an endangered species, the latest blow to the plans of Innovator Ltd (INR.AX ) to build a lithium mine in Nevada that would supply the electric vehicle industry.

The decision, which was expected, will begin a 60-day period for public comment once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register later this month. A final decision is expected in a year.

Anyone is free to send comments to the agency, which said in a statement that “more information is needed to conduct an economic assessment of the potential impacts on the species.”

The designation of endangered species would not necessarily block the project, but could prevent the obtaining of permits. Construction was scheduled to begin this year, with the mine opening by 2023.

The regulatory review reflects the continuing tension between environmentalists and industry as the United States attempts to wean its economy from fossil fuels and switch to electricity.

Ioneer, based in Australia, said he supported the agency’s decision and was “strongly convinced that with a combination of avoidance, spread and translocation, we can achieve the successful coexistence of Tiehm buckwheat and of our important project for the environment “.

The environmental group Center For Biological Diversity has long said that the flower – which cannot be found anywhere else on earth – must be preserved at all costs. The group called Friday’s decision “banner day for the conservation of native plants.”

The ongoing review, however, has not stopped fundraising efforts or scared off potential clients.

South African miner Sibanye Stillwater Ltd (SSWJ.J) bought half of the Nevada project last month for $ 490 million.

The deal came after South Korean battery maker Ecopro Co Ltd (247540.KQ) agreed in June to purchase about a third of the project’s expected annual output of 7,000 tonnes of lithium.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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