Tag Archives: niobium

Boston Metal to trial molten oxide electrolysis on CBMM ore

CBMM, a leading supplier of niobium products and technology, and Boston Metal have signed a strategic partnership to trial Boston Metal’s molten oxide electrolysis (MOE) technology for the production of niobium products.

Together, the companies will deploy the MOE technology at CBMM’s production plant in Araxá, Brazil, with first commissioning expected later this year.

CBMM, as of 2016, produced 90,000 t/y of ferroniobium equivalent, with plans to increase this further. Its mine in Araxá contains pyrochlore, a mineral that hosts niobium, among other constituents, which CBMM turns into niobium-based products.

Boston Metal said: “With this partnership, CBMM and Boston Metal will seek to further advance niobium production efficiency and provide innovative material transformation solutions. CBMM’s leadership in the niobium market is a direct result of decades of research and development investment in niobium processing and its focus on collaborating with customers and partners across the globe to develop better materials.”

Boston Metal, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, has developed the patented MOE technology as a platform for the production of a wide variety of alloys. The MOE technology uses electricity to reduce metals from their oxide form, such as CBMM’s niobium oxide containing raw materials, into high-quality, molten metal products.

At its Massachusetts headquarters, Boston Metal is developing MOE for the production of metals and alloys, and, with this partnership, MOE hardware and Boston Metal personnel will be deployed at CBMM’s headquarters in Araxá, enabling the teams to collaborate closely, Boston Metal said.

Tadeu Carneiro, Chairman and CEO of Boston Metal, said: “The MOE technology that is being developed by the team at Boston Metal promises a new era in metallurgy and, in CBMM, we found a partner that shares our fundamental commitment to technology leadership.”

Cementation and Nordmin get the honours at NioCorp’s Elk Creek project

NioCorp Developments says Cementation USA, part of the Cementation Americas Group, has been selected as the lead engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the underground aspects of the proposed Elk Creek Superalloy Material project in Nebraska, USA.

In addition, the company announced that it intends to engage The Nordmin Group of Companies to provide engineering services for the project.

Based in Sandy, Utah, Cementation is a mining- and minerals-focused group of companies, delivering both underground and surface solutions for mines and downstream minerals processing facilities worldwide.

Negotiations towards a formal EPC agreement between NioCorp and Cementation will be initiated in the near future, according to NioCorp.

“Cementation provides broad expertise in both mine construction and mine engineering, and has a solid track record in safely executing on mine development projects around the world,” Mark A Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp, said. “We look forward to working with their team to build one of the few greenfield underground mine developments in North America, and to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”

The superalloy materials project in southeast Nebraska will produce niobium, scandium, and titanium: superalloys that make steel lighter and stronger, can, when combined with aluminium make alloys with increased strength and improved corrosion resistance, and is a key component of pigments used in paper, paint and plastics, respectively.

Cementation’s Robert Gripper, EVP Contracting, USA, said: “It’s encouraging to see an owner embrace the EPC approach. We understand that mine owners are looking for engineering that adds value through the use of best practices and accounts for constructability and operability, and a construction team that is aligned with the engineer and owner. Such an approach lends itself to this.”

Nordmin, meanwhile, has demonstrated its expertise in designing an improved mine plan for the project, along with an innovative interpretation of the geologic resource and a sound plan for managing bedrock groundwater associated with the mine, according to NioCorp.

NioCorp said: “The company anticipates that any significant additional work on the project by Nordmin will be contingent on obtaining additional project financing, if and when available.”

Nordmin proposes artificial shaft freezing for NioCorp’s Elk Creek underground project

The Nordmin Group of Companies has put forward the idea of using artificial ground freezing technology at NioCorp’s Elk Creek critical minerals project in Nebraska, US, as part of a plan to accelerate the sinking of the production and ventilation shafts for the underground mine.

Nordmin said use of this technology was “technically feasible” and could assist in controlling the inflow of water encountered during shaft sinking operations, according to NioCorp.

“The technology may also improve productivity during shaft sinking operations, and eliminate the need for substantial dewatering operations prior to the onset of shaft sinking,” NioCorp added.

Elk Creek is currently envisaged as a 2,760 t/d underground mine using long-hole open stoping with backfilling. The mine is expected to cost close to $1 billion to build and produce 7,055 t/y of ferroniobium, 103 t/y of scandium oxide and 11,445 t/y of titanium dioxide over a 32-year life.

This is based on a probable reserve base of 31.7 million tonnes at 0.79% Nb2O5, 71.6 g/t Sc and 2.81% TiO2.

In addition to putting forward the alternative ground freezing technology option, Nordmin also confirmed bedrock water encountered during mining operations could be handled without the 53 km waterline to the Missouri River included in the revised feasibility study from last year.

This could significantly reduce the time required for permitting the mine, NioCorp said.

“Removing the project’s plans for a waterline to the Missouri River eliminates the project’s need for an additional Section 404 permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers,” the company said.

This permit would have triggered the need for an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, a process that can take months or more to complete, according to NioCorp.

The waterline removal also eliminates the need for Elk Creek to secure a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

NioCorp CEO and Executive Chairman Mark Smith said he was particularly pleased that “Nordmin clearly focused its efforts on proposing a mine design that maximises value and minimises environmental impacts”.

While the total upfront capital cost of the waterline and mine dewatering infrastructure, including contingencies, added up to $127.1 million in the latest feasibility study, NioCorp said investors could not simply subtract this amount from the upfront cost.

“A variety of factors beyond underground mining operations may impact the overall economics of the Elk Creek project and these factors may involve higher or lower upfront capex than was previously estimated in the 2017 revised Elk Creek feasibility study,” NioCorp said.

Chief among these is the additional incremental project capital needed for the artificial ground freezing technology not previously included.

NioCorp said its immediate plans involve fully evaluation Nordmin’s designs for the underground mine and initiating detailed engineering for the surface portions of the project as funds become available.

Late last year, the Nebraska government granted conditional approval for a major tax incentives package for Elk Creek.