New Processing Approach Demonstrates the Ability to Make More Niobium per Tonne of Ore, Produce a Higher Purity Product, and Potentially Address New Markets with Different Niobium Products
CENTENNIAL, CO / ACCESSWIRE / May 25, 2023 / NioCorp Developments Ltd. ("NioCorp" or the "Company") (NASDAQ:NB)(TSX:NB) is pleased to announce that it has successfully demonstrated the ability to recover greater amounts of the critical mineral niobium from each tonne of ore the Company expects to mine at its Elk Creek Critical Minerals Project, located in southeast Nebraska, once sufficient financing is obtained and the project is constructed.
Final results from NioCorp's metallurgical demonstration plant in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, show that NioCorp's new and improved recovery process can achieve a 90.7% rate of niobium recovery through the hydrometallurgical process. Overall recovery through the pyrometallurgical production of the commercial product ferroniobium is expected to be 86.7%. NioCorp's previous approach to niobium production was able to achieve recovery rates through the hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurtical processes of 86.8% and 82.4%, respectively.
The higher rates of niobium recovery from NioCorp's new process point to the likelihood of higher niobium production levels from NioCorp from the same mining tonnage, although a final determination of planned niobium production can be made only after work related to a mineral reserve update, additional engineering, updated project capital and operating cost estimates, and other required information is produced for publication in a new Feasibility Study.
Potential New Forms of Niobium Products and Potential Markets
NioCorp's new process approach, which incorporates a chlorination step to improve niobium and titanium separation and purification, also has demonstrated NioCorp's ability to potentially produce three different niobium products: (1) ferroniobium; (2) niobium chloride; and (3) niobium oxide.
- NioCorp had previously planned to make ferroniobium, which is used by the steel industry to produce high-strength low-alloy steel alloys. Those alloys are used in the construction, automotive and transport, aerospace and defense, oil and gas, and other industries. Niobium is a $3.3 billion per year global market but is currently served by only three major niobium producers in two countries.
- Niobium chloride would likely be converted by NioCorp into niobium oxide, but niobium chloride is also used in glass and ceramic manufacturing.
- Niobium oxide is critical to multiple applications, including niobium-lithium-ion batteries, superalloys, superconducting applications, capacitors, specialized optics, and many others. Its use in niobium-lithium-ion batteries is considered by current niobium producers as one of the fastest-growing prospective global niobium markets.
More Streamlined Production Process Demonstrated
NioCorp's new process has been demonstrated to be more efficient than the previous design, is expected to require fewer processing steps, and may allow the elimination of entire processes in NioCorp's planned processing plant in Nebraska, such as acid regeneration.
"I am very pleased with the results shown in our demonstration plant for niobium recovery," said Mark A. Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp. "These results point strongly to the likelihood of NioCorp producing more niobium from each tonne of Elk Creek Project ore, which could have positive impacts on our Project's anticipated overall financial returns. These results also point to the prospect of our Project producing more forms of niobium for a greater range of global markets."
"These are very exciting results and they point to potentially greater production levels and additional optionality in terms of where we can sell niobium and the prices these products command," said Scott Honan, NioCorp Chief Operating Officer. "While the demonstration plant has performed well, the pace of operations has gone at a slower rate than any of us would have liked. That is often the case with demonstration plants, which by their nature are designed to investigate innovate pathways for producing commercial products as well as stress testing those processes. Our top priority in this project has always been to maintain a very high standard for technical feasibility and testing, and to conduct the work safely and efficiently. Adhering to high standards is critical to the project's success, including being able to attract necessary financing to bring projects such as ours to commercial reality."
Eric Larochelle, B.Eng., Co-Owner, L3 Process Development, a Qualified Person as defined by National Instrument 43-101, has reviewed and approved the technical information, and verified the data, contained in this news release.
Scott Honan, M.Sc., SME-RM, COO of NioCorp Developments Ltd., a Qualified Person as defined by National Instrument 43-101, has reviewed and approved the technical information contained in the news release.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Jim Sims, Corporate Communications Officer, NioCorp Developments Ltd., (720) 334-7066, email@example.com
NioCorp is developing a critical minerals project in Southeast Nebraska that will produce niobium, scandium, and titanium. The Company also is evaluating the potential to produce several rare earths from the Project. Niobium is used to produce specialty alloys 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 specialty metal 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 lightweight alloys 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.
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws. Forward-looking statements may include, but are not limited to, statements about NioCorp's expectation and ability to mine ore from the Elk Creek Project, NioCorp's expectations regarding overall recovery of ferroniobium from pyrometallurgical production, the likelihood of higher niobium production levels from NioCorp from the same mining tonnage based on the results of the new recovery process at the demonstration plant, NioCorp's plans to produce niobium products and market demand for niobium products, NioCorp's expectation and ability to produce niobium, scandium, and titanium at the Elk Creek Project, and NioCorp's ability to obtain sufficient project financing to launch contruction of the Elk Creek Project and move it to commercial operation. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by words such as "plan," "believe," "expect," "anticipate," "intend," "outlook," "estimate," "forecast," "project," "continue," "could," "may," "might," "possible," "potential," "predict," "should," "would" and other similar words and expressions, but the absence of these words does not mean that a statement is not forward-looking.
The forward-looking statements are based on the current expectations of the management of NioCorp and are inherently subject to uncertainties and changes in circumstances and their potential effects and speak only as of the date of such statement. There can be no assurance that future developments will be those that have been anticipated. Forward-looking statements reflect material expectations and assumptions, including, without limitation, expectations, and assumptions relating to: the translatability of the demonstration-scale process to recover niobium from ore to the ore that NioCorp expects to extract from the Elk Creek Project. Such expectations and assumptions are inherently subject to uncertainties and contingencies regarding future events and, as such, are subject to change. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties or other factors that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those discussed and identified in public filings made by NioCorp with the SEC and with the applicable Canadian securities regulatory authorities and the following: NioCorp's ability to recognize the anticipated benefits of the business combination with GX Acquisition Corp. II (the "Business Combination") and the standby equity purchase agreement (the "Yorkville Equity Facility Financing Agreement" and, together with the Business Combination, the "Transactions") with YA II PN, Ltd., an investment fund managed by Yorkville Advisors Global, LP, including NioCorp's ability to access the full amount of the expected net proceeds under the Yorkville Equity Facility Financing Agreement over the next three years; unexpected costs related to the Transactions; the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against NioCorp following closing of the Transactions; NioCorp's ability to receive a final commitment of financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States on the anticipated timeline, on acceptable terms, or at all; NioCorp's ability to continue to meet the listing standards of The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC; NioCorp's ability to operate as a going concern; risks relating to NioCorp's common shares, including price volatility, lack of dividend payments and dilution or the perception of the likelihood any of the foregoing; NioCorp's requirement of significant additional capital; the extent to which NioCorp's level of indebtedness and/or the terms contained in agreements governing NioCorp's indebtedness or the Yorkville Equity Facility Financing Agreement may impair NioCorp's ability to obtain additional financing; covenants contained in agreements with NioCorp's secured creditors that may affect its assets; NioCorp's limited operating history; NioCorp's history of losses; the restatement of NioCorp's consolidated financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2022 and 2021 and the interim periods ended September 30, 2021, December 31, 2021, March 31, 2022, September 30, 2022, and December 31, 2022 and the impact of such restatement on NioCorp's future financial statements and other financial measures; the material weakness in NioCorp's internal control over financial reporting, NioCorp's efforts to remediate such material weakness and the timing of remediation; the possibility that NioCorp may qualify as a passive foreign investment company under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the "Code"); the potential that the Transactions could result in NioCorp becoming subject to materially adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences as a result of the application of Section 7874 and related sections of the Code; cost increases for NioCorp's exploration and, if warranted, development projects; a disruption in, or failure of, NioCorp's information technology systems, including those related to cybersecurity; equipment and supply shortages; current and future off take agreements, joint ventures, and partnerships; NioCorp's ability to attract qualified management; the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or other global health crises on NioCorp's business plans, financial condition and liquidity; estimates of mineral resources and reserves; mineral exploration and production activities; feasibility study results; the results of metallurgical testing; changes in demand for and price of commodities (such as fuel and electricity) and currencies; competition in the mining industry; changes or disruptions in the securities markets; legislative, political or economic developments, including changes in federal and/or state laws that may significantly affect the mining industry; the impacts of climate change, as well as actions taken or required by governments related to strengthening resilience in the face of potential impacts from climate change; the need to obtain permits and comply with laws and regulations and other regulatory requirements; the timing and reliability of sampling and assay data; the possibility that actual results of work may differ from projections/expectations or may not realize the perceived potential of NioCorp's projects; risks of accidents, equipment breakdowns, and labor disputes or other unanticipated difficulties or interruptions; the possibility of cost overruns or unanticipated expenses in development programs; operating or technical difficulties in connection with exploration, mining, or development activities; management of the water balance at the Elk Creek Project site; land reclamation requirements related to the Elk Creek Project; the speculative nature of mineral exploration and development, including the risks of diminishing quantities of grades of reserves and resources; claims on the title to NioCorp's properties; potential future litigation; and NioCorp's lack of insurance covering all of NioCorp's operations.
Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize or should any of the assumptions made by the management of NioCorp prove incorrect, actual results may vary in material respects from those projected in these forward-looking statements.
All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements concerning the matters addressed herein and attributable to NioCorp or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained or referred to herein. Except to the extent required by applicable law or regulation, NioCorp undertakes no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
SOURCE: NioCorp Developments Ltd.
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