A feasibility study for a proposed rare earth elements mine in southeast Nebraska would produce $17.6 billion over its lifetime.
NioCorp Investments Ltd., released the study as it continues to work toward making the mine a reality.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported that NioCorp has been working on the feasibility study for the proposed mine near Elk Creek in Johnson County for more than three years.
According to the study, NioCorp believes the mine has the potential to produce $17.6 billion in revenue over its 32-year life span. Operating margin on that $17.6 billion is predicted to be $12.2 billion, and annual pre-tax earnings would be nearly $390 million.
The study predicts the mine would annually produce more than 10 kt (11,000 st) of titanium, more than 6.3 kt (7,000 st) of niobium and more than 91 t (100 st) of scandium.
“After a little more than three years of intense work and detailed independent analysis by dozens of technical experts, the Elk Creek Project feasibility study significantly de-risks this project and positions us to advance to the next stages – project financing and eventual construction start,” said NioCorp executive chair and chief executive officer Mark A. Smith.
“The primary goal of any project feasibility study is to de-risk the proposed project such that financing can be obtained,” said Smith. “This feasibility study accomplishes that core goal. Coupled with the fact that we have commitments for 75 percent of our ferroniobium over the first 10 years – 50 percent going to ThyssenKrupp Metallurgical Products and 25 percent going to CMC Cometals of New Jersey – and that we have in hand a major federal government permit, this project is significantly de-risked at this stage. In particular, it will allow us to continue ongoing discussions with potential institutional investors in Europe and elsewhere, including with the German government’s loan guarantee program, for which the Elk Creek Project has already received in-principle eligibility.”
The study predicts startup costs of more than $1 billion, meaning it would take a little more than three years for the mine to break even.
For the project to become a reality, NioCorp still needs to secure upfront funding to pay for the mine and its infrastructure, but Smith said he believes the positive nature of the feasibility study puts the company on the right track.
NioCorp has previously said construction of the mine would take about two years. The project is expected to create up to 1,000 construction jobs and about 300 permanent jobs.