At a town hall meeting in Elk Creek on June 11, representatives of NioCorp, a Canada-based company, were optimistic that a Niobium deposit near the small southeast Nebraska town would be productive enough to attract the necessary investment to move forward with mining operations.
Niobium, a rare mineral that is used to make steel stronger and lighter, has many uses for the aircraft and automobile manufacturing industries, among others. About $9-10 worth of Niobium can make the average automobile about 5% lighter, which can increase fuel efficiency. Currently, the United States imports all of the Niobium it uses, with most of those imports coming from Brazil.
The project is still in the research and development phase, with core samples indicating enough presence of the mineral that a feasibility study would likely attract major investors. Once the feasibility study were to be completed, enough investment in the project would allow mining operations to start. Representatives from NioCorp said that the project would bring about 800-1200 construction jobs and another 200-300 mining jobs to Elk Creek, a town of about 100 people. NioCorp would need to obtain easement signatures from landowners in order to develop private land for drilling.
While the project seems to have overwhelming support in the community, concerns about the mining’s effects on groundwater quality and quantity are also quite important. The company has stated their commitment to working with landowners, respecting their wishes, and treating them fairly, and maintaining the integrity of the land is a top priority. Company representatives said that mining operations would take place several hundred feet underground, which would not affect surface usage. Groundwater and aquifer conditions will be assessed and addressed as they are identified. As it stands, the project is at least a year or more from major development, but the mood in Elk Creek is that it is more likely to happen than not.
Bold Nebraska will continue to monitor the progress of the project and keep our networks informed. While we share concerns over possible impacts to groundwater, it appears that NioCorp and its representatives are willing to answer questions, listen, and work with members of the public in order to maintain a quality operation, transparency and a long-term relationship with Nebraska and its residents in Elk Creek.
For more questions about NioCorp and its operations, contact:
NioCorp toll-free U.S. line: 1-877-385-0345