Caterpillar is set to become the heavy equipment partner for ASX-listed lithium producer Ioneer at the Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project in Nevada, the United States.
The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) plans to supply equipment and services that are valued at around $US100 million ($140 million) to Rhyolite Ridge during its first five years of operation.
The project is expected to come online in 2023 and produce over 22,000 tonnes a year of lithium chemicals, setting itself up to be the most advanced lithium development project in the United States.
The partnership between Caterpillar and Ioneer will operate through a Caterpillar equipment dealer, Cashman Equipment, which has been based in Nevada since 1931.
“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 United States – producing the materials that are critical for electric vehicles and renewable energy,” Ioneer managing director Bernard Rowe said.
Cashman Equipment vice president of sales, marketing and rental Todd Gilligan said it was vital for the United States to develop its own domestic supply of lithium.
“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,” he said.
“That fleet will be backed by dedicated experts like our employees here at Cashman to provide maximum uptime and efficiency.”
All equipment supplied by Caterpillar will feature the latest in high-precision GPS and real-time analytics to maximise efficiency and accuracy in material loading.
Caterpillar and Ioneer are now working on a joint automation study that aims to introduce autonomous haul trucks to the mine.
This is expected to improve safety and productivity, while reducing the physical and environmental footprint of the mine.
The supply of Caterpillar services is subject to Ioneer’s final investment decision on the Rhyolite Ridge project.