NioCorp Achieves Two Major Processing Breakthroughs in its Planned Elk Creek Superalloy Project
January 18, 2017 (Source) — NioCorp Developments Ltd. (“NioCorp” or the “Company”) (TSX:NB) (OTCQX:NIOBF) (FSE:BR3) announces that it has achieved two major process breakthroughs as part of its final design work for the Feasibility Study of the Elk Creek Superalloy Project (the “Project”).
Both advances – one in the Niobium metallurgical process and one related to regenerating useful materials from process streams previously slated for disposal – may lead to lower-than-expected capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operating expenses (OPEX) for the sub-systems involved, although costs may increase in other areas of the Project and overall CAPEX and OPEX estimates will not be finalized until the Project’s final feasibility study is completed.
These advances, if utilized in the final plant’s design, are expected to reduce the overall environmental footprint of the Project.
The first of these breakthroughs involves NioCorp’s discovery that it can attain high Niobium recovery rates while using less water – up to an order of magnitude less – than earlier envisioned. This process optimization could allow for a significant reduction in the size of a number of major pieces of equipment in the Project’s Niobium recovery and purification processes and water management infrastructure.
The ongoing testwork supporting these flowsheet improvements was conducted at SGS in Lakefield, Ontario. Implementing this metallurgical advance will require only conventional technologies and was confirmed through pilot testing.
The second process breakthrough involves NioCorp’s discovery that it can convert significant fractions of its neutralization solids and acid regeneration solids into supplies of neutralizing agents and process reagents that are used to help produce the Project’s commercial products. Previously, these neutralization and acid regeneration solids – material comprised mostly of calcium compounds, similar to those found in household wallboard – were planned either for disposal in an onsite tailings storage area or to be used as part of the underground mine’s backfilling operations (in which rock and materials left over from the extraction of targeted minerals is returned underground to permanently fill in voids created by mining operations).
Now, NioCorp believes it can convert a substantial portion of these materials into neutralizing agents and process reagents needed in production operations and which it had planned to purchase in bulk from outside sources. This new regeneration process involves conventional technologies and will not require any additional pilot testing.
In all, preliminary estimates by NioCorp’s design team show that this new material regeneration process can be expected to deliver the following benefits to the Project:
- Potential elimination of the construction and operation of approximately seven kilometers of a railroad spur line and associated rail transport infrastructure;
- A reduction in the size of NioCorp’s planned acid regeneration plant, which is designed to recycle chemical reagents used in the production of commercial products;
- An estimated 60-85% reduction in certain reagent purchases from third parties;
- An estimated 50% reduction in the volumes of neutralization solids and leaching residue as compared to that expected to be produced by the processes outlined in the Company’s October 2015 Preliminary Economic Assessment (“Oct. 2015 PEA”), and
- Lower costs associated with the Project’s planned tailings storage facility.
If all of these benefits are achieved, as expected, they could reduce both OPEX and CAPEX for specific portions of the Project. However, other aspects of the Project may involve higher costs than were assumed in the Oct. 2015 PEA. Final CAPEX and OPEX estimates for the Project depend upon a number of other factors and will not be determined until all remaining work is complete on the Elk Creek Feasibility Study.
The Company has initiated the additional engineering work to ensure that these benefits are captured in the Feasibility Study for the Elk Creek project.
“These breakthroughs promise to deliver real and positive impacts to our Project, and they could significantly shrink our overall environmental footprint,” said Mark A. Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp. “These kinds of innovative advances are exactly why we committed additional time and resources over the past year to fine-tuning our metallurgical and process design and testing prior to completion of the Elk Creek Feasibility Study.”
“Scott Honan, Kelton Smith, Rick Sixberry and the entire process and metallurgical teams continue to do an outstanding job in finding ways to potentially reduce costs and environmental impacts wherever possible,” Smith added. “I am more excited than ever to see the final results of our Feasibility Study, and to releasing that to the public as soon as possible.”
On Behalf of the Board of Directors,
Executive Chairman, CEO, and Director
Qualified Persons: Eric Larochelle, B.Eng of SMH Process Innovation, a Qualified Person as defined by National Instrument 43-101, is responsible for the Elk Creek hydrometallurgical program and has read and approved the technical information contained in this news release.
NioCorp is developing a superalloy materials project in Southeast Nebraska that will produce Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium. 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 also is 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.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Neither TSX nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this document. Certain statements contained in this document may constitute forward-looking statements, including but not limited to NioCorp’s ability to implement the metallurgical and process advancements described in this release, benefits that may result from successful implementation of the metallurgical and process advancements described in this release, statements regarding potential future production at the Elk Creek Project, anticipated products to be produced at the Elk Creek Project, the future critical and strategic nature of niobium and scandium, expected growing demand for metals to be produced at the Elk Creek Project, potential future customers for such metals, stable future pricing for ferroniobium, NioCorp potentially being the only producer of ferroniobium and scandium in the United States, estimated resources at the Elk Creek Project, future state and local support of the Elk Creek Project, potential returns for investors, anticipated costs of production at the Elk Creek Project being competitive, anticipated competitive advantages, expected date for beginning future commercial production, the timing, completion and results of a feasibility study for the Elk Creek Project, and results and estimates in the Preliminary Economic Assessment, including but not limited to, potential life of mine, pre-tax Net Present Value (NPV), after-tax NPV, Internal Rate of Return and estimated cash flows from production. Such forward-looking statements are based upon NioCorp’s reasonable expectations and business plan at the date hereof, which are subject to change depending on economic, political and competitive circumstances and contingencies. Readers are cautioned that such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause a change in such assumptions and the actual outcomes and estimates to be materially different from those estimated or anticipated future results, achievements or position expressed or implied by those forward-looking statements. Risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause NioCorp’s plans or prospects to change include changes in demand for and price of commodities (such as fuel and electricity) and currencies; changes or disruptions in the securities markets; legislative, political or economic developments; the need to obtain permits and comply with laws and regulations and other regulatory requirements; 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; the speculative nature of mineral exploration and development, including the risks of diminishing quantities of grades of reserves and resources; the risks involved in the exploration, development, and mining business, and the risks set forth under the heading “Risk Factors” in the Company’s S-1 registration statement and other filings with the SEC at www.sec.gov. NioCorp disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
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