Nebraska’s proposed mine could produce rarer elements

OMAHA, Neb. – The company working on a mine in southeast Nebraska to extract a rare element used to make lighter, stronger steel said Tuesday it may also be able to produce some of the key ingredients needed to make the powerful magnets used in electric vehicles and other high-tech products.

NioCorp Developments released a new report on Tuesday that shows these rare earth elements are present throughout the deposit it plans to mine if it can raise around $ 1 billion to build the project about 128.75 kilometers south. south of Omaha, near the town of Elk Creek.

Being able to produce these sought after elements along with the NioCorp niobium, scandium and titanium mining plans would make the project more attractive to investors, but the company will not be sure if it can economically produce these rare earth elements. until it performs further analysis of the latest data. It will take several months to complete this review.

“If our rare earth content turns out to be high enough to economically justify extracting individual rare earths as a by-product of our planned production of niobium, scandium and titanium, the Elk Creek Project could ultimately become a producer. American rare earth magnetic. “said Mark Smith, CEO of NioCorp.

Analyst David Abraham, who has written a book on rare earth production, said NioCorp would benefit if it can expand what it will produce, but investors should not be surprised that the company is now also trying to produce. rare earths. After all, the company was previously called Quantum Rare Earth Developments.

The key will be to determine whether it is profitable to produce rare earths.

“There are a lot of minerals in the orebody,” said Abraham, who heads the Technology, Rare and Electronics Materials Center. “The question is, what is actually economically feasible to recover and realistic to deal with.”

Currently, very little of what NioCorp wants to extract is produced in the United States. About 90% of the niobium used here comes from Brazil, and the other elements are largely produced in China.

The United States imports all of the niobium and scandium and most of the titanium and rare earths that manufacturers currently rely on. There is only one US mine that produces rare earths currently at a site in California.

“Without going too far, I think there is real economic potential here and my boy, it would definitely be nice to make some of these products in the US with niobium, scandium and titanium,” Scott said, director of operations at NioCorp. Honan said.

Niobium is mixed with steel to make the metal stronger and more heat resistant. It can also be used to help recharge lithium ion batteries faster. Scandium could be used to make stronger aluminum alloys. And the titanium that NioCorp plans to produce is used as a pigment in paint.

The other elements he hopes to produce, including neodymium and dysprosium, are used to make the strong and lightweight rare earth magnets that are used in the motors of electric vehicles, wind turbines, power tools and household appliances.

The proposed mine is expected to create more than 400 jobs if built. NioCorp strives to raise enough money to build the mine. The project was previously eligible for tax incentives of up to $ 200 million.

NioCorp is based in Centennial, Colorado.

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