NioCorp announces results of rare earth assay
NioCorp Development announced that it has completed a rare earth assays on drill core samples from its Elk Creek Project in southeast Nebraska.
The company plans to mine niobium, scandium and titanium at the project and the assays report will help the company determine if it will economically feasible to also mine rare earth elements at the project.
NioCorp Developments released a new report that shows those rare earth elements are present throughout the deposit it plans to mine if it can raise roughly $1 billion to build the project about 129 km (80 miles) south of Omaha near the town of Elk Creek.
The addition of rare earths would likely make the project more attractive to investors as the demand for rare earths has sky-rocketed in recent months. However, NioCorp has yet to determine if it will be able to economically produce those rare earth elements until it does some additional analysis of the latest data. It will take several months to complete that review, the Associated Press reported.
“If our rare earth content is found to be high enough to economically justify extraction of individual rare earths as a byproduct of our planned niobium, scandium, and titanium production, the Elk Creek project could ultimately emerge as a U.S. producer of the magnetic rare earths,” NioCorp CEO Mark Smith said.
In addition to the work now being conducted by independent geologic consultants on a potential updated mineral resource with rare earth data added, NioCorp is aggressively pursuing a technical work plan that includes metallurgical testing, mineral resource and reserve calculations, and additional market studies focused on rare earths.
“I am extremely pleased with the completion of this important step toward the development of a rare earth component to the mineral resource and reserve for the Elk Creek Project,” Mark Smith, CEO and executive chairman of NioCorp, said in a statement. “If our rare earth content is found to be rich enough to economically justify extraction of individual rare earths as a byproduct of our planned niobium, scandium, and titanium production, the Elk Creek Project could ultimately emerge as a U.S. producer of the magnetic rare earths, assuming adequate project funding is secured.
“In fact, our polymetallic deposit contains an array of some of the most important critical metals that are required by electrified transportation and other climate-friendly technologies,” Smith added. “This includes heavy magnetic rare earths such as dysprosium and terbium, which are currently produced in commercially significant quantities only in Asia. Some sources of heavy rare earths, such as the nation of Myanmar, are considered to have a high political risk from the perspective of supply chain security. The more critical minerals we produce in the U.S., the better positioned we will be to rapidly ramp up production of many climate-friendly technologies with Made in USA minerals.”
Niobium is mixed with steel to make the metal stronger and more heat resistant. It also may be used to help make lithium ion batteries recharge more quickly. Scandium could be used to make stronger aluminum alloys. And the titanium NioCorp plans to produce is used as a pigment in paint.
The other elements it hopes to produce, which include neodymium and dysprosium, are used to make the strong, lightweight rare earth magnets that are used to in the motors of electric vehicles, wind turbines, power tools and home appliances.
The proposed mine is expected to create over 400 jobs if it is built. NioCorp is working to raise enough money to build the mine. The project previously qualified for up to $200 million in state tax incentives.
NioCorp is based in Centennial, Colorado.