ioneer Ltd (ASX:INR) (OTCMKTS:GSCCF) (FRA:4G1) has signed a partnership with Caterpillar Inc (NYSE:CAT) (FRA:CAT1) as its exclusive heavy equipment partner for the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Nevada.
The equipment and services supplied by Caterpillar during the first five years of operation are valued at around US$100 million.
In addition, Caterpillar will offer finance solutions for the equipment through Caterpillar Financial Services.
Both the supply of equipment and services and finance solutions are subject to a final investment decision being taken on the project and definitive legal documentation.
The partnership will operate through Cashman Equipment, a major Caterpillar equipment dealer, which has been based in Nevada since 1931.
Domestic lithium battery supply chain
ioneer’s managing director Bernard Rowe, said: “We are extremely pleased to partner with the world’s leading manufacturer of mining equipment, Caterpillar.
The Cashman Equipment Cat dealership has serviced the Nevada mining industry for close to 90 years and we are delighted it is joining us in a new era of mining within Nevada and the US – producing materials that are critical for electric vehicles and renewable energy.
“ioneer is at the forefront of the US strategic imperative to develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain.”
“Important American project”
Cashman Equipment vice president of sales, marketing and rental Todd Gilligan said:
“A mining endeavour of this magnitude needs a first-class machine fleet and Caterpillar offers the most comprehensive, advanced line up of mining equipment and technology in the industry.
“That fleet will be backed by dedicated experts like our employees here at Cashman to provide maximum uptime and efficiency.
“We are excited to have been selected as ioneer’s partner and look forward to working together on this important American project that is set to become a major US supplier to the lithium battery and EV markets.”
Joint automation study
Cashman Equipment will support the Rhyolite Ridge project with technicians to assemble and service the equipment, operator trainers to assist with the most efficient machine operations, and product support consultants to facilitate a comprehensive maintenance and repair contract (MARC) agreement.
ioneer and Caterpillar are also working on a joint automation study that aims for the early introduction of autonomous haul trucks at Rhyolite Ridge.
Fully autonomous mining automation systems offer unprecedented improvements in operator safety, equipment availability, and site productivity and play an important role in reducing the physical and environmental footprint of a mine.
Rhyolite Ridge project
The 100%-owned Rhyolite Ridge project is the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and one of only two known such deposits in the world.
A definitive feasibility study completed in April 2020 confirmed Rhyolite Ridge as a world-class lithium and boron project that is expected to become a globally significant, long-life, low-cost source of lithium and boron vital to a sustainable future.
The project is expected to come on stream in 2023 and produce over 22,000 tonnes per annum of lithium chemicals - more than four times current US production.
ioneer is expected to be the first new lithium chemicals producer in the US in over 60 years and become a major supplier of lithium and boron products to the US and global markets for many decades.