Aerospace Critical Minerals
Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium — critical and strategic minerals that NioCorp plans to produce in Nebraska — are all critical to a number of aerospace technologies and platforms. Virtually every commercial jetliner, and military aircraft, flying today utilizes alloys made with Niobium and Titanium. In fact, according to Niobium market leader CBMM, the most common jet engine in service today contains about 300 kilograms of niobium.
Helicopters, drones, satellites and a host of other aerospace technologies would not fly without one or more of these strategic metals.
When sufficient and reliable supplies of Scandium come online, that metal offers truly revolutionary benefits to aerospace, and to commercial aviation in particular. For example, an independent analysis by OnG Commodities LLC shows the following:
- Scandium-contained aluminum alloys can save airline operators approximately $9 million in net present value for a single B737-sized jetliner, assuming Scandium oxide pricing at $3,500/kg. This represents an 11:1 cost-savings ratio for the airlines, and assumes B737 flying 3,250 hours per year, using American Airlines’ cost of capital, U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) projections for future fuel price inflation, Scandium Trioxide (Sc2O3) at a price of $3,500/kg, and an average 0.7% by weight scandium doping level.
- For commercial aircraft manufacturers, AlSc alloys allow aluminum components to be welded instead of joined via hundreds of thousands of rivets per plane. For manufacturers, this could amount to tens of millions of dollars/year in lower materials costs and direct manufacturing costs and a higher manufacturing throughput. A 1% increase in annual production of a narrow body jet is worth approximately $500 million in added revenue to an commercial aircraft manufacturer.
Aerospace Applications That Utilize NioCorp’s Planned Products
Superalloy Blog Posts
As the U.S. looks to repair crumbling infrastructure systems, I expect to see more high-performance steels (HPS) used in structures like bridges because of the many powerful benefits they deliver. HPS steels containing a small amount of ferroniobium – which NioCorp plans to produce in southeast Nebraska at our Elk Creek Superalloy Materials Project once we are funded and in operation – are among the strongest and most durable steels on the market today.
If a $2 trillion U.S. infrastructure package is enacted, it could create a major, long-term demand boom for the critical minerals needed by infrastructure and advanced transportation systems, according to NioCorp’s CEO Mark Smith.
One global macro trend is highly likely to accelerate in the aftermath of COVID-19: increased investment in domestic materials supply chains as a means of reducing the reliance of Western nations on supply chains in developing nations. Asia’s dominance in many strategic supply chains has become painfully obvious since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.
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