Tag Archives: NioCorp

NioCorp working with Weir Minerals, NRRI on Elk Creek HPGR test work

NioCorp Developments Ltd is to initiate testing of Elk Creek project ore using high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) technology from Weir Minerals.

HPGR technology is considered an energy efficient and low-emission alternative to conventional processing for reducing the size of the ore to enable the recovery of niobium, scandium, titanium, and potential rare earth products, NioCorp said.

The use of this technology in the project reinforces the company’s commitment to the environment and designing a sustainable operation, it added.

The testing is being conducted at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, in partnership with Weir Minerals. During the testing, which is expected to take several weeks, around 3 t of Elk Creek drill core will be reduced to the 1-mm size needed for hydrometallurgical test work.

Working with Weir Minerals, NRRI acquired an industrial-scale Enduron® HPGR to carry out testing on a variety of ores with this process back in 2020. This is the only large scale HPGR dedicated to research in the US, NRRI claims.

“The network is expected to provide key data that will be used to properly size the HPGR unit for the potential ore throughput at the Elk Creek project, once project financing is secured and the project is operational,” NioCorp said.

The company is currently evaluating the next steps in its overall metallurgical test work program, which will focus on optimising and streamlining the existing processing flowsheet as well as establishing process routes for the potential recovery of rare earth products. The rare earth products that are of most interest to the company are, at present, neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, terbium oxide and dysprosium oxide. As previously announced, the company has launched a review of the economic potential of expanding its currently planned product suite from the project to also include rare earth products.

An April 2019 feasibility study on Elk Creek, in Nebraska, USA, estimated average production of 7,220 t/y of ferroniobium, 95 t/y tpa of scandium trioxide and 11,642 t/y of titanium dioxide over the 36-year mine life.

Scott Honan, NioCorp COO, said: “After witnessing testing at NRRI, I was impressed with how the HPGR was able to handle the Elk Creek ore quickly and efficiently, with minimal noise and dust.

“We look forward to completing this phase of the test work and moving on to look at further improvements to the existing flowsheet, including our new emphasis around the rare earths.”

NioCorp extends Cementation Americas’ stay at Elk Creek project

NioCorp Developments says it has signed a contract with Cementation USA, part of the Cementation Americas group, to continue advancing detailed engineering work associated with the Elk Creek Superalloy Materials project in Nebraska, USA.

Under the contract, the underground mine contracting and engineering company will conduct an evaluation of the current design for the project’s underground mine and prepare a detailed cost estimate for the final detailed engineering that would be required to bring the mine design to “Issued for Construction” status, NioCorp said.

As previously announced, NioCorp selected Cementation as the lead engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the underground aspects of the project. The company expects to engage Cementation, if and when additional project financing becomes available, to undertake Phase 2 of the contract, which involves completion of the detailed engineering for the mine.

An April 2019 feasibility study on Elk Creek estimated average production of 7,220 t/y of ferroniobium, 95 t/y tpa of scandium trioxide and 11,642 t/y of titanium dioxide over the 36-year mine life.

NioCorp adds Zachry Group to EPC mix at Elk Creek project

NioCorp Developments says it has selected Zachry Group as the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firm for the surface processing facilities and associated infrastructure of the proposed Elk Creek Superalloy Material project, in Nebraska, USA.

The agreement, subject to the completion of EPC contract negotiations, comes on top of NioCorp selecting Cementation USA as the lead EPC contractor for the underground aspects of Elk Creek as well as saying it intended to engage The Nordmin Group of Companies to provide engineering services for the project.

The development of the project will require significant additional capital above what NioCorp has raised to date, the company said, adding that “any significant work on the project pursuant to an agreement with Zachry will be contingent on obtaining sufficient project financing, if and when available”.

Based in San Antonio, Texas, and with an engineering office in Omaha, Nebraska, Zachry has been engaged on the project since 2014 and is currently working under an Engineering Services Agreement with NioCorp.

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.