The Department of Energy could not be immediately reached outside of normal business hours.
While it’s not guaranteed that ioneer will receive the loan, the milestone is a vote of confidence in the company’s $850 million Rhyolite Ridge project – 355 miles north of Las Vegas – despite environmentalists refusing regulators and others.
It also reflects growing US government concerns that without additional investment, demand for the white metal could exceed supply and set back efforts to address climate change.
South African miner Sibanye Stillwater Ltd bought half of the Rhyolite Ridge project in September for $490 million. Ioneer hopes the US government will lend it 40-50% of the remaining cost of the project through the ATVM.
The third stage of the ATVM loan review will include a more detailed analysis of the economics of the project by the government and outside experts, Ioneer said.
The company said it expects the mine to open by 2024. The US Fish & Wildlife Service may classify a rare flower at the ioneer mine site as endangered, a milestone that won’t would not necessarily block the project but could prevent obtaining a permit.
Tesla Inc and Nissan Motor Co Ltd are among the former recipients of ATVM loans. Piedmont Lithium Inc has applied for ATVM loan financing for its lithium mine project in North Carolina.
(By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Peter Cooney)