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Business news: Nevada-mined lithium heads to Toyota, Panasonic for battery production


Australian company ioneer, which operates the central Nevada mine, is will be supplying the companies with lithium to be to improve electric vehicle supply chains.

Lithium extraction in Nevada, while anticipated for years, has faced opposition from environmental activists and members of Nevada’s tribes, who say the extraction intrudes upon sacred Indigenuous lands and is harmful to native wildlife and plants.

The Thacker Pass project still faces opposition but is passing regulatory hurdles from federal and state government agencies.

ioneer last year was hit with a setback after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that Thiem’s buckwheat, a plant species only found near the company’s mine, could be threatened by mining activities. The feds are proposing the plant be protected at the 10 acres where it grows in the Silver Peak range.

“Designating critical habitat for Tiehm’s buckwheat is key to the plant’s persistence and recovery because it occupies such a small range and requires such specific habitat conditions to survive,” Marc Jacksonfield of the Fish and Wildlife Service said early this year. “This designation will help us work more effectively with our partners to support current and future land uses that promote conservation and recovery of Tiehm’s buckwheat.”

But company representatives last year said they will take steps to protect the rare plant, which only grows on 10 acres in Esmeralda County.

“Our protection and conservation efforts are being designed to meet that standard to maximize protections. The listing status does not affect the protections ioneer is planning for Tiehm’s buckwheat,” ioneer’s Managing Director, Bernard Rowe, said in 2021.

The company’s five-year agreement with Panasonic and Toyota is expected to produce 4,000 tons a year for lithium ion battery production. 

“This and the previously announced Ford and EcoPro agreements solidify ioneer’s focus on the U.S. electric vehicle supply chain infrastructure,” company executive James Calaway said in a press release. “We look forward to providing lithium materials to … our … partners for their growth in the EV global market.”

ioneer’s U.S. headquarters and the majority of its employees are in Reno. Company representatives said they expect to produce about 21,000 tons of lithium each year from Rhyolite Ridge, which is expected to have a 26-year lifespan.

“ioneer anticipates commencing production in 2025 to support urgent requirements for battery materials in the United States,” company representatives added.

More business news

State EV capacity expected to increase with $38 million in federal dollars 

Statewide efforts to increase charging capacity for electric vehicles are also getting a boost. 

Gov. Steve Sisolak last week announced a plan to get $38 million from the federal government to improve electric vehicle infrastructure. 

The plan, once approved, will allow the Nevada Department of Transportation to receive the money over five years. It will be used  to receive millions of dollars in federal funding. 

The idea is to prioritize corridors and locations for charging infrastructure that consider electric vehicle data, such as vehicle miles traveled, traffic volume and start/stop locations.

“The future of transportation is electric, and I’m proud to see Nevada’s public agencies and private sector working collaboratively to develop a comprehensive plan that will leverage every dollar to build out a statewide EV network that will be a model for the rest of the nation,” Sisolak said. “An electric charging network in Nevada must work for everyone.” 

Business news briefs

Treasurer announces Nevada Business Leadership Council. Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine announced the creation of the Nevada Business Leadership Council under the Nevada Capital Investment Corporation, which will help guide investments in Nevada-based companies, while also working to create a more hospitable business climate in the state going forward. The NCIC, Nevada’s private equity vehicle, currently manages $75 million of capital dedicated to investing in businesses located in Nevada and businesses that are interested in expanding or relocating to the State. 

Travel Nevada announces new hires. The government agency’s industry development team welcomes Cortney Bloomer as Destination Development Manager and Abigail Ortiz as Industry Relations Specialist covering northern Nevada. “Cortney and Abigail are great additions to Travel Nevada,” said Antonette Eckert, chief industry development officer. “Both are passionate about Nevada’s tourism industry and bring valuable skill sets to the team. We’re excited for our partners to meet them and forge ahead in fostering relationships and curating projects that impact the overall tourism economy.” 

Coffeebar to move in at the Oddie District. Coffeebar is among new tenants moving into the Oddie area near the Generator and Innovation Collective. “We are a radically-inclusive Italian café experience, serving everything from your morning espresso to your evening glass of wine. Inspired by the cafe culture in Italy and our local community, we are dedicated to our region’s producers and artisans, and driven by our staff, customers and community,” said Greg Buchheister, CEO.

Nevada increases hiring of military veterans. The Nevada Department of Administration has announced an increase in the number of U.S. military veterans hired for state jobs, with veterans now making up 6.2% of the state workforce in Nevada, up from 1.8% in 2016. Veteran hiring grew in the past year, with an average of 70 veterans hired per quarter compared to eight per quarter historically.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.