Australian ionist says US government loan request moving forward


Dec 20 (Reuters) – Australia’s ioneer Ltd (INR.AX) said on Monday its application for a U.S. government loan had moved to the penultimate stage of review, bringing the company one step closer to fully financing its project lithium mine in Nevada to supply the electric vehicle industry.

The company said the U.S. Department of Energy found that its application for funding under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program is “substantially complete” and can proceed to the third of four stages. A final decision is expected within six months.

The Department of Energy could not be immediately reached outside of normal business hours.

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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 – 355km north of Las Vegas – despite environmentalists refusing , regulators and others.

It also reflects growing US government concerns that without more investment, demand for the white metal could outstrip supply and set back efforts to tackle 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 project cost 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 (TSLA.O) and Nissan Motor Co Ltd are among former ATVM loan recipients. Piedmont Lithium Inc (PLL.O) has applied for ATVM loan financing for its lithium mine project in North Carolina.

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Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Peter Cooney

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