Ioneer’s commitment to conservation of Tiehm’s buckwheat at Rhyolite Ridge
We are focused on balancing the need to develop a nationally important and critical mineral resource essential to a sustainable planet while maintaining and uplifting the Tiehm’s buckwheat population at Rhyolite Ridge.
About Tiehm’s buckwheat
Tiehm’s buckwheat (Eriogonum tiehmii) is a perennial forb that was first identified at Rhyolite Ridge in Esmeralda County, Nevada in 1983. No other occurrences of the plant are known, at this time, in Nevada. Today, Tiehm’s buckwheat is classified as a BLM Sensitive Species, meaning the species requires special management to ensure its protection and preservation.
To ensure the long-term viability of Tiehm’s buckwheat within and near Rhyolite Ridge, we have evaluated a broad range of protection and management measures to maintain and uplift the species. In developing these options, Ioneer consulted with experts who have studied other buckwheat species in Nevada, and who are familiar with similar conservation plans in the Western U.S.
How Ioneer is protecting Tiehm’s buckwheat
Ioneer has always been firmly committed to the long-term viability and reduction of the risk of species extinction of Tiehm’s buckwheat and has spent over $1,250,000 on research and developing protection measures over the past 3 years. Specifically, we worked in the following ways to protect, conserve and expand this sensitive species in its natural habitat:
Minimising potential impacts
Ioneer initiated a full survey of the existing Tiehm’s buckwheat population prior to any field activities. We have conducted all work in consultation with regulatory authorities and guidelines and have taken great care to avoid the buckwheat subpopulations.
These efforts included modifying locations of boreholes to avoid the plants, drilling boreholes in several directions from a common drill pad to reduce the total amount of surface disturbance, educating employees and contractors about the plant, and other avoidance measures.
Working with regulators
Ioneer submitted a robust Project Plan of Operations to the BLM which includes nearly two years of research and protection strategies formulated by a collaboration of experts. Implementing the proposed measures described in these plans will protect the air quality, biology, groundwater, soils, and rangeland around the Rhyolite Ridge facility – not just maintaining the Tiehm’s buckwheat habitat but improving its ability to survive and thrive. This plan will be subject to public comment as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
Establishing a protection plan
Ioneer has developed and implemented a BLM approved comprehensive Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection Plan that includes strict measures that have been in place since Ioneer commenced exploration at Rhyolite Ridge in 2016. The goal of these voluntary measures is to ensure that the plant and its habitat are protected, and that the potential impacts caused by development of the Project are minimised.
Developing a conservation plan
Ioneer is actively working with experts, regulators and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive Tiehm’s buckwheat conservation plan that will be implemented during the length of mining operations. This plan is modeled upon successful strategies for protection of other rare plants and habitat including:
Cushenbury buckwheat (eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum), at the Mitsubishi South Quarry Project (San Bernardino County, CA), and The 2018 Nevada Greater Sage-grouse Conservation Plan, which is designed to protect sage-grouse habitat for long-term conservation of the species.
Engaging buckwheat specialists
Ioneer has retained the services of academic and commercial experts to augment its biological team and develop protection measures that will ensure the persistence of the plant in natural conditions. These specialists are well respected within the botanical sciences and all are members of the Eriogonum Society, a professional association whose members have expertise in evaluating, propagating, and protecting various types of buckwheat.
In February 2021, Ioneer reported that it has begun working with The Conservation Fund to explore viable options around protection and conservation efforts for Tiehm’s buckwheat. The Conservation Fund is one of the largest non-profit environmental groups in the United States and has commenced work with relevant federal agencies on buckwheat conservation strategies.
Enhancing knowledge with research
Ioneer worked with researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) over thirteen months to conduct a propagation and transplant trial for Tiehm’s buckwheat. The project successfully grew over 1,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat seedlings in the UNR greenhouse from seeds collected at Rhyolite Ridge, which were planted in three test sites in the Project Area in April 2020.
In January 2021, the Company announced key findings from a research report authored by UNR scientists. Importantly, the report greatly advanced existing knowledge of Tiehm’s buckwheat and creates the foundation for future efforts to ensure long term protection, and uplift of the plant in its natural habitat at Rhyolite Ridge. As the first study of its type to be completed for Tiehm’s buckwheat and the first study of any kind on the plant in over 10 years, UNR’s report represents a major step forward in the understanding of this species.
Consistent with the Company’s commitment to the environment and desire to ensure a sustainable buckwheat population at Rhyolite Ridge, Ioneer has expanded the scope of its work with commercial research partners while also continuing to collaborate with academic researchers to determine the best ways to uplift this species.