Export-Import Bank of United States issues letter of interest for potential financing of Elk Creek Project
NioCorp Developments announced that the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., a government agency that helps fund certain projects, is interested in potentially providing up to $800 million in financing for NioCorp’s proposed Elk Creek Minerals Project.
The financing involves drilling 460 m (1,500 ft) underground and building a 60 acre mine.
“We are pleased to extend this Letter of Interest in support of the proposed capital funding plan by Elk Creek Resources Corp. for the Elk Creek Project,” EXIM wrote in its communication to NioCorp. “Based on the preliminary information submitted on expected exports and jobs supported, EXIM may be able to consider potential financing of up to $800 million of the project’s costs under EXIM’s Make More In America initiative.”
Elk Creek Resources Corp. is a Nebraska corporation wholly owned by NioCorp.
In an interview with CBS in Denver, CO, NioCorp CEO Mark Smith said of the project in Elk Creek, NB, “It's basically farm country so you got corn and soybeans."
Beneath those crops is potentially a rich critical mineral reserve including niobium. The steel alloy is used in cars, bridges, military vehicles and wind turbines, among other things, to make them stronger and lighter. Smith said it is also revolutionizing electric vehicle batteries.
“It allows a car to go 400 or 500 miles per charge. The battery will last 5 to 8 times longer than the current lithium ion technology and, the best news of all? You can charge this in less than 10 minutes.”
Smith told CBS the mine could supply half the niobium the U.S. needs.
The mine will also produce titanium and rare earth metals. Titanium is vital to the military and yet it's produced primarily by Russia. Rare earth metals are essential to everything from cellphones to EVs and yet it's imported from China.
“We are very pleased with this Letter of Interest from the Export-Import Bank of the United States for NioCorp’s Elk Creek Critical Minerals Project, and with the fact that we may qualify for as much as $800 million in debt financing from EXIM,” said Smith. “We look forward to finalizing and submitting a formal loan application to EXIM and working closely with them through this process.”
The debt financing is subject to the satisfactory completion of due diligence, the negotiation and settlement of final terms, and the negotiation of definitive documentation. There can be no assurance that the debt financing will be completed on the terms as described above or at all.
Smith said NioCorp has been laying the groundwork for the mining project for nearly 10 years.
"We have all of our permits in place. We have our technical feasibility study done. We've done all the drilling to define the mineral resources."
Smith told CBS that the company will know in the next 6-9 months if the Export-Import bank's financing will come through. It will take about three years, he says, to build the mine, which will employ 400-500 workers. NioCorp also plans to open a manufacturing facility with the mine to convert the minerals and metals into useable products like magnets.