Canadian-based NioCorp Developments is resuming drilling near Elk Creek later this week as it looks to collect more samples from a niobium deposit in the area. Former State Senator Tony Fulton, a member of the NioCorp advisory board, says the latest round of investment in the project will allow for a metallurgical analysis, additional drilling at the site, and a feasibility study that is hoped to be completed by the end of the year.
“We’ve been able to raise the money recently to get the metallurgy done and to allow us to finish drilling, or do what we call infield drilling. It’ll be this week hopefully that we get these drill bits turning. Things are moving along well at this point,” according to Fulton.
The company is looking to move more of the inferred mineral content into the measured and indicated categories of development, meaning NioCorp wants to get a more accurate estimate of just how much niobium is actually in the deposit at Elk Creek. Fulton says that NioCorp hopes to have an operational mine at the site by 2016.
The United States is currently importing nearly all of its niobium from mines in Brazil and Canada, with 80 to 85 percent of the rare metal mined from Brazil. If estimates from NioCorp are correct, there could be as much as 100 tons of niobium at the Elk Creek site, worth nearly $27 billion commercially. Drilling by NioCorp at the current site began in 2011, with the company looking to secure further investment.