Mark Smith to turn NioCorp into one of the top niobium producers in the world
June 23, 2014 — Tracy Weslosky, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of InvestorIntel speaks to Mark A. Smith, CEO and Director for NioCorp (TSXV: NB | OTCQX: NIOBF) about the company’s Elk Creek project in southeastern Nebraska. NioCorp recently announced some very favorable drilling results. NioCorp’s Elk Creek deposit is rich in barium, rare earth element mineralization and especially high grade concentrations of niobium, which will be the main focus of the project.
NioCorp announced that it has a second drill rig on site; while that may not appear to be ‘big news’, it does suggest, as Mark says, that the Company is very committed to the project rather than “simply putting a hole and so that we can get a little resource information and then put another hole in next year. We are moving this project into development as fast as we can.” NioCorp has already sent the first samples from the drilling for analysis and the results are expected before the end of the month. NioCorp’s background is very interesting and shares a history with Molycorp. The Elk Creek property itself was first discovered by Molycorp in the late 1960’s and even did some work there in 2010. However, Mark Smith, himself, has a very interesting background that also includes managing Molycorp and Tracy suggests that anyone with an interest in the sector should learn about Mark’s accomplishments in the rare earth industry. Mark says that after leaving Molycorp, in late 2012, he had thought of retiring. He was asked by NioCorp to lead its management team. Mark says he did some ‘due diligence’ in the first months of 2013 and eventually started buying stock in the company, becoming the single largest shareholder by September 2013. Mark says that “it became evident that I liked the project a lot and I needed to be more engaged.” Mark has a lot of praise for the people at NioCorp and their commitment to taking what is known as the third largest niobium deposit in the world and the only primary niobium deposit in the United States and then “converting it into the fourth producing niobium asset in the world.” The big question, as Tracy points out, is: why niobium? Few know that 100% of the niobium used in North America’s market (the global niobium market is about 80,000 to 100,000 tons a year) has to be imported. Most of the niobium is produced at a mine in Brazil. While it is crucial for the electric car industry, it is actually in demand by the automotive sector as a whole.
Niobium is mostly used in the construction sector, especially in such things as bridges and roads because it adds strength to steel while reducing its weight. The automotive sector is the second largest user and as Mark says “every steel bodied car made in the world today has niobium in it,” which helps reduce fuel consumption and add safety. Mark also notes that “both the EU and the United States have deemed niobium as a strategic metal”. Mark also offers a brief take into the rare earth and critical metals sector. It is interesting to find out that Mark has “not sold even one of his Molycorp shares”, remaining fully committed to that project and to the rare earths sector, which he sees as having recovered some stability.
Disclaimer: NioCorp is an advertorial member of InvestorIntel.
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Adrian Nixon is a Senior Editor at InvestorIntel. He began his career as a scientist and is a Chartered Chemist and Member of the Royal ... <Read more about Adrian Nixon>