NioCorp Developments Ltd. (TSX: NB) (OTCQX: NIOBF) is pleased to announce the results of rare earth assays completed on drill core samples from the Elk Creek Project that were obtained through an agreement with the University of Nebraska’s Conservation and Survey Division.
A total of 1,094 samples originating from 18 diamond drill holes completed by previous operators of the Project were obtained pursuant to an agreement between the Company and CSD and were assayed for rare earth element content at Actlabs in Ancaster, Ontario. The assay results were subjected to a Quality Assurance and Quality Control program consistent with industry best practices.
These new assay results complement the analysis previously completed by the Company of the geological and metallurgical evaluation of all of the rare earth data associated with the Project (see this announcement).
With the completion of this recent assay work, the rare earth assay database is considered complete for the purposes of calculating the potential rare earth content within the footprint of the previously announced niobium, scandium, and titanium Mineral Resource at the Elk Creek Project. If NioCorp is able to complete an update to its existing Mineral Resource and add information on rare earth content data, that update is expected to provide the average content (ore grade as expressed in parts-per-million, or PPM) and total contained tonnage of each individual rare earth element in the Mineral Resource.
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.
Mark Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp, said: “I am extremely pleased with the completion of this important step towards the development of a rare earth component to the mineral resource and reserve for the Elk Creek Project. 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,” Mr. 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.”
The tables below outlines intervals of interest in particular drill holes.
|1 LREO is the sum of the following: La2O3, Ce2O3, Pr6O11, Nd2O3.|
|2 HREO is the sum of the following: Sm2O3, Eu2O3, Gd2O3, Tb2O3, Dy2O3, Ho2O3, Er2O3, Tm2O3, Yb2O3, Lu2O3.|
|3 TREO is the sum of the following: La2O3, Ce2O3, Pr6O11, Nd2O3, Sm2O3, Eu2O3, Gd2O3, Tb2O3, Dy2O3, Ho2O3, Er2O3, Tm2O3, Yb2O3, Lu2O3.|
|4 Percent Magnetics is calculated as the sum of LPr6O11, Nd2O3, Tb2O3, Dy2O3 divided by the calculated TREO. The measured length of each individual assay interval was used to calculate a weighted average for the noted intervals.|
The Company’s focus continues to be on the four “magnetic” rare earths: neodymium, praseodymium, terbium, and dysprosium. The table above indicates that a substantial portion of the rare earths present in this dataset are comprised of the magnetic rare earths (“Percent Magnetics”). These elements are the critical ingredients in rare earth permanent magnets, which are the strongest permanent magnets commercially available. Rare earth magnets are key to the decarbonization of the world’s economy, as they are indispensable in the production of electric cars, wind turbines, and high-efficiency electric motors. Publicly available average indicative pricing for the magnetic rare earths from metal.com as of December 3, 2021, appears below:
|Rare Earth Oxide Product||Metal.com Indicative Average Price, 12/3/21 (USD/kg)|
The assay intervals noted do not constitute a Mineral Resource or a Mineral Reserve under any regulatory definition. Each drill hole is within the footprint of the 7,800-acre Elk Creek Carbonatite as well as being within the footprint of the existing niobium, scandium, and titanium mineral resource. Each drill hole noted above is located on land that the Company currently owns or is subject to an exclusive Option to Purchase agreement with the local landowner. The mineral resource is depicted on the map below using a 0.3% Nb2O5 grade shell, along with the drill holes noted in the table above.
Scott Honan, NioCorp’s COO, said: “NioCorp is extremely grateful to the staff and leadership of CSR, without which we would not have been able to complete this important step forward towards realizing the rare earth potential of the Elk Creek Project.”
The University of Nebraska’s UNL’s Conservation and Survey Division (“CSD”), is a unique, multi-disciplinary research, service and data-resource organization that originated in 1893. As Nebraska’s geological survey, its mission is to investigate and record information about the state’s geologic history, its rock and mineral resources, the quantity and quality of its water resources, land cover, and other aspects of its geography, as well as the nature, distribution and uses of its soils. CSD was actively involved in the discovery of the Elk Creek carbonatite more than five decades ago. CSD continues to curate samples and data from the deposit, among its many other collections, for the benefit of stakeholders and in the public interest. CSD has been an invaluable source of data and expertise for minerals development and other Earth-science issues in Nebraska since its founding.
The information contained in this press release does not change any of the mineral resource or mineral reserve estimates contained in NioCorp’s April 16, 2019, NI 43-101 Technical Report, Feasibility Study, Elk Creek Superalloy Materials Project, Nebraska. The information contained in this press release is provided to inform the reader of the growth of our geologic understanding of the rare earth potential of the Project. There has been insufficient work to define a mineral resource with respect to rare earth data and it is uncertain if further work will result in rare earth data being delineated as a mineral resource.
A Quality Assurance / Quality Control protocol following industry best practices was incorporated into the program and included systematic insertion of certified reference materials into sample batches at a rate of 7.4%. A total of 1,181 samples, including 87 QAQC samples, were submitted to Activation Laboratories (Actlabs) in Ancaster, ON for assay. Collected samples targeted original pulverized splits generated during historical sampling program. If pulverized samples could not be located coarse crush samples were used, resulting in 1047 original pulverized splits and 47 original coarse-splits being submitted for analysis. Samples were selected and extracted from a locked storage core and prepared sample repository, under the supervision of a qualified person and the curator in charge of the repository.
The lab analysis package included eight-major oxides, rare earths, and trace elements. Samples were analyzed via fusion inductively coupled plasma (ICP) and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in addition to niobium by XRF, using packages 8-REE and 8-Nb2O5 – XRF. Samples were received, weighed and prepared by crushing to 80% passing 10 mesh (for coarse-splits), followed by a 250 g riffle split and pulverizing to 95% passing 105 µ (package RX1).
Brad Ulry, P.Geo., Chief Operating Officer, Dahrouge Geological Consulting Ltd., a qualified person as defined in National Instrument 43-101, has reviewed and approved the technical information contained in this news release and verified the data disclosed in this news release
NioCorp is developing a superalloy materials project in Southeast Nebraska that will produce Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium. The Company also is evaluating the potential to produce several rare earth byproducts from the Project. Niobium is used to produce superalloys as well as High Strength, Low Alloy (“HSLA”) 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 is also 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. Magnetic rare earths, such as Neodymium, Praseodymium, Terbium, and Dysprosium are critical to the making of Neodymium-Iron-Boron (“NdFeB”) magnets, which are used across a wide variety of defense and civilian applications.
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