NioCorp’s Elk Creek project confirmed as the second largest indicated-or-better rare earth resource in the U.S.
An updated feasibility study of NioCorp Developments Ltd. Elk Creek Project shows that the project is the second-largest indicated-or-better rare earth resource in the U.S., second only to MP Materials’ Mountain Pass rare earth deposit in California.
NioCorp has completed an updated feasibility study in collaboration with Understood Mineral Resources Ltd., Optimize Group Inc., and Dahrouge Geological Consulting Ltd. Rare earth elements were evaluated as a potential by-product to the mining of niobium, titanium and scandium; thus the estimated values of the REEs are reported using the previously determined diluted Net Smelter Return (NSR) as derived from the Nb2O5, TiO2, and scandium Mineral Resources. According to the 2022 Feasibility Study, the Elk Creek Project contains an estimated 632.9 kt of contained total rare earth oxides (TREO) in the indicated mineral resource category. According to U.S. Geological Survey data, this places the Elk Creek Mineral Resource behind MP Materials’ Mountain Pass deposit in the U.S. but ahead of all other current rare earth projects in terms of contained TREO from a NI 43-101 rare earth resource of indicated or higher classification.
According to the 2022 Feasibility Study, in addition to relatively high grades of niobium, scandium, and titanium, the Elk Creek Mineral Resource contains various amounts of all rare earth elements (REEs). There is potential for NioCorp’s REEs to be mined, crushed, and placed into solution as part of the process NioCorp plans to use to produce its primary niobium, scandium, and titanium products once project financing is secured. Depending upon the outcome of metallurgical testing on REE recovery rates from Elk Creek ore, now being conducted at a demonstration plant in Quebec, Canada, and whether necessary project financing is secured, NioCorp could produce separated rare earths as a byproduct, placing it at a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other rare earth projects.
A new technical report on the Elk Creek Project summarizing the results of the 2022 Feasibility Study will be prepared by Dahrouge Geological Consulting Ltd. and Optimize Group Inc. in accordance with NI 43-101. The technical report will include details regarding the updated Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates presented herein, which are derived from the 2022 Feasibility Study, and will be filed on SEDAR (www.sedar.com) within 45 days of this news release.
Given the NioCorp team’s decades of collective experience in commercial-scale separation and purification of REEs, and with global demand and pricing of REEs continuing to rise, the company launched geological, metallurgical, engineering, and other analyses in 2021 to assess the feasibility of adding REE production to its plans. NioCorp plans to issue a further updated NI 43-101 technical report which incorporates the results of this work following the completion of the demonstration plant and the follow-on engineering and costing to determine the net impact of integrating rare earth operations into the Company’s current production plans.
Of the REEs shown by the 2022 Feasibility Study to be contained in the Elk Creek Mineral Resource, NioCorp is presently focusing on the magnetic REE products neodymium-praseodymium oxide, dysprosium oxide, and terbium oxide at a purity level that meets current commercial requirements. There currently is no commercial-scale production in North America of these separated rare earth products from ore mined in the U.S.
“The results of this updated feasibility study are very good news, and they validate our belief that the Elk Creek ore body represents one of America’s largest indicated rare earth resources,” said Mark A. Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp. “With the addition of the magnetic rare earths, the Elk Creek Project will stand out from virtually every other greenfield project in the U.S. in terms of its potential ability to produce multiple critical minerals that are essential to electrified transportation, renewable energy production, green mega-infrastructure projects, and many other applications that are in increasing demand around the world. If we elect to add rare earths to our product offering, the Elk Creek Project will represent a unique critical minerals project once financing is obtained.”