Howden Partners to Enable Sustainability at Ioneers’s Rhyolite Ridge


Lithium recently listed as one of the 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy.

Electric vehicle sales are projected to exceed 25 million units by 2028, with China dominating global production. As the electric vehicle industry begins to increase the manufacturing of hybrid electric vehicles that use lithium batteries, both lithium and boron are in high demand but with very little domestic supply.

Economic deposits containing borates are scarce, and two major companies produce over 80% of the world’s borate supply. No mines in the world currently produce both borates and lithium, which is why the proposed Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project, located within the Silver Peak Mountain range in Nevada, represents a unique opportunity to fulfill a U.S. source of both critical raw materials. Rhyolite Ridge is the most advanced lithium project in the United States. Rhyolite Ridge, owned by Ioneer USA Corporation (a subsidiary of ioneer Ltd, an Australian, ASX-listed company), is a unique sedimentary deposit where lithium and boron can be readily leached from the host rock (Searlesite) using dilute sulphuric acid. SNC-Lavalin will design and engineer Rhyolite’s sulphuric acid plant, which will produce 3,500 tonnes per day of sulphuric acid for the leaching process.

The Howden SF18 single-stage turbo compressor, with its high aerodynamic efficiency and wide performance envelope, will be used to support the 3,500 MTPD sulfuric acid plant’s leach process. Howden’s longstanding experience in the sulfuric acid industry, quality equipment, and partnership with SNC-Lavalin’s engineering and execution teams will enable the project to move forward quickly. The compressor will be packaged in our Springfield manufacturing facility. Based on the analysis in its comprehensive Definitive Feasibility Study released in April 2020, the project is expected to produce lithium at a lower cost than current brine and spodumene lithium mines, placing it at the bottom of the industry cost curve.

The lithium and boron mineral resource is estimated at 146.5 million metric tonnes, including an ore reserve of 60 million metric tonnes. Ioneer expects to mine and process 63.8 million tonnes over the 26-year mine life at an average annual rate of 2.5 million metric tonnes per year. With its ideal geographic position, low-cost and large-scale operation, and a long-life resource with verified expansion potential, Rhyolite Ridge is positioned to support the global surge in electric vehicles and energy storage by becoming the first major American lithium supplier as well as becoming the next global supplier of boric acid.

Lithium is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal and is the lightest of all metals; it is highly conductive, able to store electrons, and used to enable technologies that help to reduce climate change. Lithium serves as an irreplaceable component for batteries essential to mobile electronics, power tools, drones, electric vehicles, and green energy storage systems to reduce emissions. Currently, most of the world’s lithium comes from Chile, China, Australia, and Argentina; there is only one small lithium mine located in the United States. Boron is a rare, critical raw material used in more than 100 unique applications, such as in powerful magnets for electric cars, wind turbines, and advanced glass for televisions, computers, handheld electronic devices, and solar panels. Historically, lithium has typically been extracted from liquid brine reservoirs, commonly located beneath salt flats or hard rock lithium processing, where lithium is extracted from spodumene concentrates after acid roasting operations.

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This project is a living example of our new Howden Vision: We enable our customers’’ vital processes which advance a more sustainable world.
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