The Australian mining company Ioneer was issued a trespass notice today at the Rhyolite Ridge lithium mine site in southwest Nevada.
Bureau of Land Management officials said the citation was for the unauthorized use of Tiehm’s buckwheat habitat. The buckwheat was designated as an endangered species last year since the Rhyolite Ridge site is the only known location of the plant.
“The areas were being used as a laydown area for geotechnical drilling operations associated with collection of subsurface data,” federal officials said. “BLM inspectors confirmed the unauthorized placement of a water bladder and identified remnants of a laydown yard within designated critical habitat.”
The company was given 14 days to respond to the notice.
“While most of the equipment has already been removed, BLM has directed the company to hold on further reclamation of the area until the [U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service] and BLM can be present,” officials said.
The company responded today by saying it takes responsibility.
“We take full responsibility for the breach and sincerely regret the inadvertent noncompliance with the permit,” Ioneer’s Managing Director Bernard Rowe said. “Since day one, Ioneer has instructed our staff and contractors about the need to observe all permit conditions. We are investigating exactly how this failure occurred, and we will take action to assure total compliance in the future.”
The trespass comes days after Ioneer announced a federal Department of Energy loan for the lithium mine site.
Scott Lake with the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been battling Ioneer over the plant, filed a complaint with BLM and the USFWS over Ioneer’s use of the site.
“Field visits have revealed that surface use in the Rhyolite Ridge area has exceeded the scope of BLM’s authorization and adversely impacted Tiehm’s buckwheat critical habitat,” Lake wrote in a letter to the federal agencies last week.
That letter prompted the trespass notice to Ioneer.