NioCorp Developments Ltd. (TSX: NB) (OTCQX: NIOBF) is pleased to announce that advances by NioCorp’s technical team have uncovered a potential alternative process for extracting niobium from the Elk Creek Superalloy Materials Project. If further proven to be technologically and economically feasible at scale for the Project, and if incorporated by NioCorp into the Project’s design and construction, the new approach could result in lower up-front capital and operating costs for the Project.
A series of metallurgical tests completed for NioCorp by L3 Process Development of West Jordan, Utah, has established carbonation as a potential alternative metallurgical process for the extraction of niobium from ore that NioCorp expects to mine from the Project site, subject to receipt of necessary funding. Carbonation is a relatively clean, environmentally friendly, and sustainable hydrometallurgical process that can potentially be employed to use and recycle carbon dioxide to extract niobium and other elements from ore in a manner similar to extractions with acids such as hydrochloric or sulphuric acid.
During the small-scale testing conducted by L3 on the same representative Elk Creek ore sample used for metallurgical testing on the Company’s 2019 Feasibility Study, it was established that a single pass of carbonation leaching could extract 11-26% niobium present in the ore. Multiple passes of carbonation leaching could potentially achieve a cumulatively higher extraction of niobium.
“We are very pleased with the research and development work that L3 has completed in employing a different type of process to extract niobium from Elk Creek ore,” said Scott Honan, NioCorp’s COO. “Not only was L3 able to complete this work timely and in a very cost-effective manner, but the results point to the potential of this process to extract niobium without also extracting titanium. Achieving a separation between these two elements at the extraction stage has the potential to save capital and operating costs in downstream operations. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with L3 to fully investigate carbonation’s potential and evaluate its possible integration into the Elk Creek production flowsheet.”
L3 and the Company intend to conduct additional carbonation testing at a larger scale to optimize carbonation operating conditions, confirm reaction kinetics, evaluate total potential extraction for niobium and other elements and complete additional mass balances, as funds become available.
Qualified Persons: Mr. Eric Larochelle, B.Eng., Hydrometallurgy Specialist (L3 Process Development) is an independent Qualified Person in accordance with the requirements of National Instrument (NI) 43-101 and has read and approved the technical information contained in this news release.
NioCorp is developing a superalloy materials project in Southeast Nebraska that will produce Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium. Niobium is used to produce superalloys as well as High Strength, Low Alloy steel, which is a lighter, stronger steel used in automotive, structural, and pipeline applications. Scandium is a superalloy material that can be combined with Aluminum to make alloys with increased strength and improved corrosion resistance. Scandium also is a critical component of advanced solid oxide fuel cells. Titanium is used in various superalloys and is a key component of pigments used in paper, paint and plastics and is also used for aerospace applications, armor and medical implants.
About L3 Process Development
L3 Process Development is a group of highly experienced hands-on engineers and specialists recognized in the development of mining, metallurgy, chemical and industrial projects. L3 thrives in being involved on specialty metals projects from the early process development. L3’s core competency is the expertise of its members in developing innovative process flowsheets, new design concepts, through a fast-paced approach in project development through integration of engineering with piloting, demonstration and delivery.
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