ioneer Ltd (ASX:INR) (OTCMKTS:GSCCF) has expanded support for conservation of Tiehm’s buckwheat perennial herb, which is specific to the area of its Rhyolite Ridge Project in Nevada, through funding a new five-year study.
This will expand ioneer’s research agreement with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), with the study to focus on the propagation and growth of Tiehm’s buckwheat at Rhyolite Ridge.
Success with seedlings trial
The expanded agreement follows early success with the UNR research team successfully growing over 1,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat seedlings in the UNR greenhouse from seeds collected at Rhyolite Ridge.
Germination rates of about 32% are much higher than the anticipated rate of 16%.
When appropriate, a portion of the seedlings will be transplanted into unoccupied suitable habitat at Rhyolite Ridge.
“Thrilled with early success”
ioneer’s managing director Bernard Rowe said: “We are thrilled with the early success of our collaboration with UNR and very pleased to be expanding this project further, as we continue to expand our work with leading Nevada-based organisations like UNR to effectively evaluate and address the various matters associated with developing such a large and important project.
“Our comprehensive Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection Plan, developed over the past two years, forms a critical component of the Rhyolite Ridge environmental assessment and approval process.”
The five-year agreement with UNR demonstrates ioneer’s commitment to protecting and ensuring a future where the Tiehm’s buckwheat population at Rhyolite Ridge thrives in its natural environment.
Environmental stewardship is at the core of ioneer’s mission to develop the unique Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron operation that will produce large quantities of vital materials critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Highly regarded team
Rowe said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have the highly regarded UNR research team, headed by Professor Elizabeth Leger, working with us to research the Tiehm’s buckwheat population at Rhyolite Ridge.
“Professor Leger and her team have previously conducted similar research on a cushion buckwheat population at a mine site in northern Nevada, an experience that is expected to prove invaluable in their work with ioneer.”
Tiehm’s buckwheat is a low, cushion-forming perennial herb and is classified as a BLM Sensitive Species meaning it requires special management to ensure its protection and preservation.
Individual plants can be up to 12 inches in diameter and most plants are less than 10 inches high.
It was first identified at Rhyolite Ridge in 1983 by Arnold (Jerry) Tiehm and later described and named as a new species by James Reveal in 1985.
Tiehm’s buckwheat occurs as a single population within the Rhyolite Ridge area and the total number of plants is estimated to be just under 44,000.
As part of its commitment to the environment, ioneer has developed and implemented a comprehensive management plan that includes strict environmental protection measures.
These protection measures have been in place since ioneer began exploration at Rhyolite Ridge in 2016.
In late 2019, ioneer engaged UNR to conduct a propagation and transplant trial.
UNR personnel, including Professor Leger and research assistant Jamey McClinton, conducted a similar trial with another cushion buckwheat - Crosby’s buckwheat - with the same methods being applied to the Tiehm’s buckwheat study.
Seeds were collected during the 2019 season from mature flowering plants under a permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management.
In January 2020 a portion of the seeds were planted into supercell pots at the UNR greenhouse with the remaining seeds banked for long-term storage at Rae Selling Berry Botanic Center in Portland, Oregon.
The goal of these voluntary protection measures is to ensure that the plant and its habitat are protected and that the potential impacts caused by development of the Rhyolite Ridge Project are minimised.