RENO (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday an extremely rare wildflower that grows only in Nevada’s high desert where an Australian mining company wants to dig for lithium should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The agency outlined its intention to propose listing Tiehm’s buckwheat as a threatened or endangered species in a court-ordered, finding of its overdue review of a listing petition conservationists filed in 2019.
The conclusion that federal protection is warranted could jeopardize Ioneer Ltd.’s plans to build the mine halfway between Reno and Las Vegas.
It also ups the ante in an early test of the Biden administration’s ability to make good on promises to protect public lands and their native species while pursuing an ambitious clean energy agenda that includes bolstering production of lithium needed for electric car batteries.
Environmentalists say the delicate, 6-inch tall wildflower with yellow blooms is on the brink of extinction with fewer than 30,000 individual plants remaining.
Ioneer acknowledges Tiehm’s buckwheat hasn’t been documented anywhere else in the world but insists it can co-exist with the mine.
Nevertheless, the looming listing presents the biggest regulatory hurdle to date for what would be only the second large-scale lithium mine operating in the United States.
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