By Mark A. Smith

By Mark A. Smith, P.E., Esq.
CEO and Executive Chairman
NioCorp Developments Ltd.

Critical minerals and materials are defined by the U.S. Government as critical because they (1) are essential to the economic and national security of the United States, (2) have supply chains that are vulnerable to disruption, and (3) serve an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.

In short, critical minerals are things we really, really need and can’t always get.

From the perspective of the U.S., and western nations in general, the more we mine and manufacture our own critical minerals and materials, the more secure our collective economic and national security will be.  But there is another compelling driver behind the resurgence of interest in critical minerals mining and manufacturing:  high-tech jobs and economic growth for states and localities.

NioCorp’s Elk Creek Project is an excellent case in point.

  • This Project is projected to create approximately 436 new, full-time jobs, including approximately 182 mining jobs and 224 jobs associated with the Project’s primary metal manufacturing operations.
  • It also will support nearly 1,200 construction/contract jobs at the height of the Project’s expected 3+ year construction period.
  • A model developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (“BEA”) projects the creation of approximately 1,000 additional jobs throughout the economy as a result of the increased economic activity generated by the Project.  For every new job created by metal mining projects in the U.S, the BEA’s model projects that an average of 2.3 additional jobs will be created.1

That’s not all.  Many of these new, full-time jobs will be training workers in a host of new, high-tech skills that are part and parcel of modern mining and critical materials manufacture.  These include operating underground mobile equipment remotely, computerized development and production drilling and operating plant production equipment through a computer interface.

The economic benefits of critical minerals and materials manufacturing go well beyond the creation of new high-tech jobs.  The Elk Creek Project, for example, will operate as a very powerful economic engine for Nebraska and the U.S. in terms of economic stimulus and increased revenue to state and local government in Nebraska.

Estimated Economic Benefits and New Tax Revenue Generated by the Elk Creek Project2
Direct Full-Time, Permanent Jobs Created436
Indirect Jobs Created1,000
Peak Construction-Related Jobs1,200
Total Investment over 36-Year Project Life$7.76 billion
Cumulative Operating Expenses over Project Life$6.618 billion
Employee Payroll over Project Life (included in cumulative operating expenses above)$882 million
New Tax Revenue to State and Local Government over Project Life$742.4 million
Royalties Paid to Nebraska Landowners over Project Life$279 million


With economic benefits of this magnitude, it is no wonder that States such as Nebraska are actively encouraging investment in critical minerals and materials manufacturing by offering targeted tax incentives to companies who launch such manufacturing operations in the state.  As the Elk Creek Project’s projections clearly show, the return on such investments can be very large.


[1]  Derived from analyses conducted as part of NioCorp’s April 2019 Elk Creek Project FS.

[2] The economic data and projections cited in this table are contained in NioCorp’s April 2019 Elk Creek FS or are derived from analyses conducted as part of the FS, which was prepared in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 (“NI 43-101“) and is available for download at and on