(Reuters) – Last September, in the arid hills of northern Nevada, a cluster of flowers found nowhere else on earth died mysteriously overnight.
Conservationists were quick to suspect ioneer Ltd, an Australian firm that wants to mine the lithium that lies beneath the flowers for use in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
One conservation group alleged in a lawsuit that the flowers, known as Tiehm’s buckwheat, were “dug up and destroyed.” The rare plant posed a problem for ioneer because U.S. officials may soon add it to the Endangered Species List, which could scuttle the mining project.
Ioneer denies harming the flowers. Their cause of death remains hotly debated – as does the fate of the lithium mine.
The clash of environmental priorities underpinning the battle over Tiehm’s buckwheat – conservation vs. green energy – is a microcosm of a much larger political quandary for the new administration of President Joe Biden, who has made big promises to environmentalists as well as labor groups and others who stand to benefit by boosting mining.
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