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NEVADA VIEWS: Mining project could help revive struggling Esmeralda County

As a lifelong resident of Fish Lake Valley, I’ve witnessed the ebb and flow of economic fortunes in our community. From the days when agriculture and mining were the lifeblood of Esmeralda County to the present challenges of dwindling populations and shuttered businesses, the story of our valley is one of resilience and adaptation.

My family’s roots here stretch back to 1959 when we traded the hustle of Sunnyvale, California, for the quiet beauty of Dyer. Back then, owning land meant years of hard work. Neighbors weren’t just neighbors; they were partners in building a community, whether it was raising barns or running the local market.

But times change, and so do economies.

The geothermal projects of the 1980s brought temporary relief, but the promise of sustained growth never materialized. Instead, we watched as businesses closed, schools struggled and young people left in search of opportunity elsewhere. Now, as Esmeralda County faces another crossroads, I find myself in support of Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project.

The potential benefits of responsible mining are clear: sustainable income, job opportunities and support for essential services. I understand the concerns raised by some of my neighbors — the fear of increased traffic, water usage and environmental impacts. The Rhyolite Ridge project offers a lifeline for our community. With careful planning and investment, the project aims to alleviate the aforementioned concerns of local residents.

For years, I’ve witnessed the rumbling of semis pounding the asphalt day and night. While complaints often seem to go unheard, I take comfort in the fact that Ioneer along with the county is actively engaging with the Nevada Department of Transportation to address impacts to state roads. The agency’s financial commitment to upgrading the “Hot Box” road is a significant and overdue improvement. The project will not only improve road infrastructure for mine traffic but also partner with Esmeralda County for ongoing maintenance — a level of dedication unlikely to be matched by non-mining trucking companies.

Water rights have long been a contentious issue in our valley and across Nevada, with Diamond Valley farmers feeling the squeeze because of overallocations of water rights by the Department of Water Resources. Rhyolite Ridge’s approach offers a glimmer of hope, aiming to mitigate these concerns by utilizing existing water rights allocations, ensuring minimal impact on our local agriculture by maintaining the valley’s water balance. In fact, compared with the uncontrolled governance of wells in neighboring California, the project’s water usage will be carefully regulated, with an approximate 20 percent reduction in allocation from farm to mining usage.

Moreover, the project’s commitment to environmental preservation is commendable. Over the past six years, they’ve invested more than $2.5 million to address concerns about Tiehm’s buckwheat and other environmental concerns while diligently collaborating with federal, state and county agencies. It’s a far cry from the destructive projects that have left scars on our land and communities in the past.

Having known Bernard Rowe, managing director of Ioneer, for 17 years, I can attest to his dedication to our community’s welfare. His accessibility and commitment to addressing our concerns have been evident throughout the project’s development. With a focus on resident education, environmental impact and long-term preservation, the Rhyolite Ridge project aligns with our community’s values and offers a path to positive growth and prosperity.

I encourage skeptics to attend Ioneer’s regular “listening” meetings, offering a platform to voice concerns and engage with project officials. At 75, I am eager to embrace this new chapter, confident that it will bring success. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this county and community.

Linda A. Williams has been a Fish Lake Valley resident since 1959.