Increased Congressional Focus on AlSc Master Alloy Coincides with NioCorp’s Phased Commercialization Program for AlSc Master Alloy Production in the U.S.
NioCorp’s Pilot-Scale AlSc Master Alloy Effort Has Successfully Produced Scandium Metal and is on Track to Make Initial AlSc Master Alloy Ingots in the Coming Weeks
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (August 9, 2023) – NioCorp Developments Ltd. (“NioCorp” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ:NB) (TSX:NB) is praising U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) for securing legislation in both the House and Senate versions of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act regarding the strategic importance of scandium, as well as securing $10 million in federal funding to support commercial production of aluminum-scandium (“AlSc”) master alloy production in the U.S.
“Through their positions in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Senator Fischer and Congressman Bacon are recognized as national leaders in U.S. defense policy in the Congress,” said Mark A. Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp. “They understand the strategic importance of establishing a domestic supply chain for scandium and aluminum-scandium alloys and their prospective importance to defense and essential civilian technologies.”
“On behalf of the many thousands of Nebraskans who are stakeholders and supporters of the Elk Creek Critical Minerals Project in southeast Nebraska, I want to thank Senator Fischer and Congressman Bacon for championing the scandium and aluminum-scandium master alloy that we intend to produce in Nebraska,” he added. “Through the Elk Creek Project, once sufficient project funding is obtained, Nebraska may very well become a leading scandium producer and could be in a position to help the U.S. Armed Forces take full advantage of the revolutionary performance benefits that scandium can deliver to air-, land-, and sea-based systems.”
In addition to pursuing construction and eventual commercial operations of the Elk Creek Critical Minerals Project (the “Elk Creek Project”) once sufficient project funding is obtained, NioCorp is also currently engaged in a phased commercialization effort to establish production of AlSc master alloy in the U.S.
The addition of scandium to aluminum alloys produces a much stronger alloy that reduces weight, increases strength and corrosion resistance, and makes the material weldable in transportation, aerospace, defense, and other systems. AlSc master alloy, which generally contains 98% aluminum and 2% scandium, is used to introduce scandium into aluminum for the purpose of producing AlSc alloys, which generally contain a fraction of a percent scandium by weight. NioCorp’s goal is to demonstrate the ability to make AlSc master alloy containing 2% scandium by weight and as much as 10% scandium by weight.
NioCorp is working with Boston-based Nanoscale Powders LLC (“Nanoscale”) to oversee pilot-scale testing of AlSc master alloy production at a facility operated by Creative Engineers in New Freedom, Pennsylvania. The effort recently produced scandium metal and is on track to produce its first ingots of AlSc master alloy in the coming weeks. NioCorp and Nanoscale are employing a proprietary process developed by Nanoscale that increases efficiency and reduces environmental impacts of AlSc production over traditional approaches. Nanoscale has already developed similar metallurgical processes that are being applied to the production of rare earth metals for other operators, which behave metallurgically in a fashion similar to scandium.
Recent Congressional Directives Regarding Scandium
As a result of the advocacy of Senator Fischer and Congressman Bacon, the Senate and House National Defense Authorization bills contain the below directives regarding scandium.
1. FY24 House NDAA Committee Report 118-125 (pgs. 225-226):
Aluminum-Scandium Master Alloy Production
The committee recognizes that China is a major producer of high-purity scandium oxide, which has many powerful applications in defense technologies, including strengthening and light-weighting defense and commercial aviation systems. As scandium oxide production is established in the United States, a missing supply chain component is the conversion of scandium from its oxide form to aluminum-scandium (AlSc) master alloy. This process step is required for utilization of U.S.-mined scandium by many defense applications. At present, production capacity of AISc master alloy is limited to one facility in the United States. The committee recognizes that the United States may soon become a major producer of high-purity scandium oxide by virtue of a proposed mine and mineral processing project in Nebraska. The committee recognizes the defense-wide importance of a vertical domestic supply chain for both scandium oxide and AlSc master alloy and the critical importance of both materials for the production of air-, land-, and sea-based combat systems.
Aluminum-Scandium Master Alloy Production
The committee is aware that the rare earth element scandium has important defense and aviation applications when converted from its mined oxide form to an aluminum-scandium (AlSc) master alloy. The committee understands that the global production of scandium is currently dominated by China and Russia but that the United States is poised to become one of the world’s largest producers of high-purity scandium oxide due to proposed private-sector domestic mine and mineral processing projects. Therefore, the committee directs the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than December 29, 2023 describing the critical defense applications for AISc master alloy, a list of specific defense programs that require access to AI Sc master alloy and recommendations to improve defense innovation and industrial base access to scandium oxide and AlSc master alloy.
2. FY24 Senate NDAA Committee Report 118-11 (pg. 275):
Domestic manufacturing of strategic and critical materials\
The committee recognizes the importance of having domestic and allied production, processing, and refining of strategic and critical materials necessary for defense requirements. Many of these materials, to include niobium, tantalum, and scandium, predominantly come from non-allied foreign countries. The committee supports ongoing efforts by the Department of Defense to utilize authorities at their disposal, such as the Defense Production Act of 1950 (Public Law 81–774) and the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program, to create domestic capabilities for these strategic and critical materials. The committee encourages the Department to continue its ongoing efforts and to review the need for domestic production of niobium, tantalum, and scandium, and act on those requirements with existing authorities.
3. FY24 Senate Defense Appropriations Committee Report 118-81 to Accompany S. 2587, containing $10M for Aluminum-Scandium Master Alloy Production
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For More Information:
Jim Sims, Corporate Communications Officer, NioCorp Developments Ltd., 720-639-4650, [email protected]
@NioCorp $Nasdaq:NB $NB.TO $NB #Niobium #Scandium #rareearth #neodymium #dysprosium #terbium #ElkCreek
NioCorp is developing a critical minerals project in Southeast Nebraska that will produce niobium, scandium, and titanium. The Company also is evaluating the potential to produce several rare earths from the Elk Creek Project. Niobium is used to produce specialty alloys 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 specialty metal that can be combined with Aluminum to make alloys with increased strength and improved corrosion resistance. Scandium is also a critical component of advanced solid oxide fuel cells. Titanium is used in various lightweight alloys and is a key component of pigments used in paper, paint and plastics and is also used for aerospace applications, armor, and medical implants. Magnetic rare earths, such as neodymium, praseodymium, terbium, and dysprosium are critical to the making of Neodymium-Iron-Boron (“NdFeB”) magnets, which are used across a wide variety of defense and civilian applications.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws. Forward-looking statements may include, but are not limited to, statements about: the potential to produce AlSc master alloy [and rare earth products] for the Elk Creek Project; production of AlSc master alloy in the U.S.; the goal to demonstrate the ability to make AlSc master alloy containing 2% scandium by weight and as much as 10% scandium by weight; the timing of the production of the first ingots of AlSc master alloy in the coming weeks; and NioCorp’s expectation and ability to produce niobium, scandium, and titanium at the Elk Creek Project. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by words such as “plan,” “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “outlook,” “estimate,” “forecast,” “project,” “continue,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “possible,” “potential,” “predict,” “should,” “would” and other similar words and expressions, but the absence of these words does not mean that a statement is not forward-looking.
The forward-looking statements are based on the current expectations of the management of NioCorp and are inherently subject to uncertainties and changes in circumstances and their potential effects and speak only as of the date of such statement. There can be no assurance that future developments will be those that have been anticipated. Forward-looking statements reflect material expectations and assumptions, including, without limitation, expectations, and assumptions relating to: the translatability of the pilot-scale testing of the AlSc master alloy production in connection with NioCorp’s phased commercialization program with Nanoscale to commercial production at the Elk Creek Project; and the strategic importance of scandium and the performance benefits that scandium can deliver to air-, land-, and sea-based systems. Such expectations and assumptions are inherently subject to uncertainties and contingencies regarding future events and, as such, are subject to change. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties or other factors that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those discussed and identified in public filings made by NioCorp with the SEC and with the applicable Canadian securities regulatory authorities and the following: the success of the Nanoscale technology at pilot-scale and its impact on NioCorp’s potential production of AlSc master alloy; NioCorp’s ability to recognize the anticipated benefits of the business combination with GX Acquisition Corp. II (the “Business Combination”) and the standby equity purchase agreement (the “Yorkville Equity Facility Financing Agreement” and, together with the Business Combination, the “Transactions”) with YA II PN, Ltd., an investment fund managed by Yorkville Advisors Global, LP, including NioCorp’s ability to access the full amount of the expected net proceeds under the Yorkville Equity Facility Financing Agreement over the next three years; unexpected costs related to the Transactions; the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against NioCorp following closing of the Transactions; NioCorp’s ability to receive a final commitment of financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States on the anticipated timeline, on acceptable terms, or at all; NioCorp’s ability to continue to meet the listing standards of The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC; NioCorp’s ability to operate as a going concern; risks relating to NioCorp’s common shares, including price volatility, lack of dividend payments and dilution or the perception of the likelihood any of the foregoing; NioCorp’s requirement of significant additional capital; the extent to which NioCorp’s level of indebtedness and/or the terms contained in agreements governing NioCorp’s indebtedness or the Yorkville Equity Facility Financing Agreement may impair NioCorp’s ability to obtain additional financing; covenants contained in agreements with NioCorp’s secured creditors that may affect its assets; NioCorp’s limited operating history; NioCorp’s history of losses; the restatement of NioCorp’s consolidated financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2022 and 2021 and the interim periods ended September 30, 2021, December 31, 2021, March 31, 2022, September 30, 2022, and December 31, 2022 and the impact of such restatement on NioCorp’s future financial statements and other financial measures; the material weakness in NioCorp’s internal control over financial reporting, NioCorp’s efforts to remediate such material weakness and the timing of remediation; the possibility that NioCorp may qualify as a passive foreign investment company under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”); the potential that the Transactions could result in NioCorp becoming subject to materially adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences as a result of the application of Section 7874 and related sections of the Code; cost increases for NioCorp’s exploration and, if warranted, development projects; a disruption in, or failure of, NioCorp’s information technology systems, including those related to cybersecurity; equipment and supply shortages; current and future off take agreements, joint ventures, and partnerships; NioCorp’s ability to attract qualified management; the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or other global health crises on NioCorp’s business plans, financial condition and liquidity; estimates of mineral resources and reserves; mineral exploration and production activities; feasibility study results; the results of metallurgical testing; changes in demand for and price of commodities (such as fuel and electricity) and currencies; competition in the mining industry; changes or disruptions in the securities markets; legislative, political or economic developments, including changes in federal and/or state laws that may significantly affect the mining industry; the impacts of climate change, as well as actions taken or required by governments related to strengthening resilience in the face of potential impacts from climate change; the need to obtain permits and comply with laws and regulations and other regulatory requirements; the timing and reliability of sampling and assay data; 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; management of the water balance at the Elk Creek Project site; land reclamation requirements related to the Elk Creek Project; the speculative nature of mineral exploration and development, including the risks of diminishing quantities of grades of reserves and resources; claims on the title to NioCorp’s properties; potential future litigation; and NioCorp’s lack of insurance covering all of NioCorp’s operations.
Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize or should any of the assumptions made by the management of NioCorp prove incorrect, actual results may vary in material respects from those projected in these forward-looking statements.
All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements concerning the matters addressed herein and attributable to NioCorp or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained or referred to herein. Except to the extent required by applicable law or regulation, NioCorp undertakes no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.