New financing could quicken pace of NioCorp niobium mine project

Nov. 17, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ·

NioCorp CEO Mark Smith talks with southeast Nebraska residents at a town hall meeting in 2023
NioCorp CEO Mark Smith talks with southeast Nebraska residents at a 2023 town hall meeting. (Photo: Bill Kelly, Nebraska Public Media)

Listen To This Story

NioCorp, the Colorado-based company hoping to dig a Niobium mine in southeast Nebraska, visited there to assure area residents a new financing opportunity may speed up the development of the long-delayed project.

In September, the company merged with GX Acquisition II, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), hoping to move NioCorp onto the NASDAQ stock exchange and attract needed investment. The deal made an estimated $285 Million available to advance additional development of the Elk Creek Mine.

NioCorp CEO Mark Smith in 2023.
NioCorp CEO Mark Smith speaks during a town hall meeting in 2023. (Photo: Bill Kelly, Nebraska Public Media)

CEO Mark Smith told Nebraska Public Media News, "this will allow us to start a lot of the ground preparation, some of the detailed engineering and studies we need to do to make sure we are putting things in the right spot."

The three town hall meetings in Syracuse were the first time executives updated neighbors around the proposed Niobium mine. After the meetings, Smith noted that local officials and landowners have "been extremely patient."

"These are hard projects to get up and running and get financed," he said. "We're actually doing it in less time than most companies do it. So we're getting there."

Governor-elect Jim Pillen spent time with the NioCorp executives on Thursday to show his support for the project.

The company claims over 4000 Nebraskans have money invested in the company with its stock listed in the U.S. on the OTC (over-the-counter) exchange. The stock traded at between $1.25 to 60 cents a share in the past year.

NioCorp's involvement in developing the Niobium mine came to light in 2010 when the company moved to secure leases from property owners in Johnson County. Geologists have been aware of the unique mineral deposits near Elk Creek since the 1980s.

Up close photos of niobium and scandium on the periodic table of elements.
Niobium and Scandium on the periodic table. (Graphic by Nebraska Public Media)

If successful, the operation could provide the United States with its only domestic supply of Niobium, Scandium, and potentially some rare-earth elements. High-tech industries use alloys created from the elements in everything from electric car batteries to metals incorporated into fighter jets.

For almost 20 years, the company has said the development of the billion-dollar mine could advance quickly if only an investor with deep pockets would step forward. CEO Mark Smith says the recent partnership with an investment firm could allow NioCorp to list on the NASDAQ stock exchange and could replace the need for a single large investor.

"This is a big fundraising effort," Smith said. "This could result in $285 million in our treasury to put towards this project, so it's an immediate bump."

While some in the audience asked about how to invest, some online stock watchers continue to be wary of the project, claiming the company has used inflated market values of Niobium and other minerals to bolster estimates of its potential profitability.

Smith says the numbers used in their public filings about the project are all reviewed by independent experts.