Long-delayed NioCorp mine announces deals that could bring more investment

About $80 million has been invested so far in the $1.1 billion project; another $366 million is envisioned in merger, loan deals

By: - September 26, 2022 4:39 pm
NioCorp mine

An artist’s rendering of the proposed critical elements mine near Tecumseh, Nebraska. The project continues to seek investments in the $1.1 billion project. (Courtesy of NioCorp)

LINCOLN — A long-delayed mining project in southeast Nebraska announced Monday that it was entering into agreements that could lead to an additional $366 million of investment in its $1.1 billion project.

So far, NioCorp has raised about $80 million toward opening of its proposed “critical minerals” mine, a company spokesman said. The mine would be located near Elk Creek, a farm town south of Tecumseh and about 80 miles south of Omaha.

On Monday, the Colorado-based company announced that it is planning to acquire GX Acquisition Corp. and intends that the merged firm will be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange after the acquisition closes, which is expected in the first quarter of 2023.

Deals could lead to $366 million

The acquisition, according to NioCorp, “could” result in access to an additional $285 million toward NioCorp’s Elk Creek Critical Minerals Project, depending on the redemption rate of current GXII stockholders.

Also on Monday, NioCorp announced letters of intent with Yorkville Advisors Global on two loans to realize an additional $81 million for the project.

In a press release, NioCorp CEO and Executive Chairman Mark A. Smith said the combination of developments on Monday “have the potential to significantly accelerate our efforts” to make the Elk Creek project a reality.

Discussed since 1970s

The underground mine, which has been discussed since the 1970s, would extract niobium, scandium and titanium, minerals used to harden steel, make aluminum stronger and as a pigment in paint.

More than a decade ago, developers of the project began signing leases with landowners in the Elk Creek area and had initially said they would wrap up the investment phase of the project in 2018 but later extended the timeline.

ricketts press conference
Gov. Pete Ricketts (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

The mine has whipped up considerable interest in Nebraska, in part because of projections that it could bring 450 permanent jobs, paying upwards of $60,000 each, to southeast Nebraska. Over half of the investors in the project are from Nebraska, and the state has authorized tax breaks for the mine amounting to $200 million.

Ricketts sees ‘a huge benefit’

“I think it will be a huge benefit to the State of Nebraska,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday in response to a question on his monthly radio call-in show.

He noted that workers would need specialized mining experience and would likely be new residents. 

In recent months, NioCorp has said it is also exploring whether the mine could produce “rare earth” minerals that are used in the production of magnets and rechargeable batteries used in cell phones and electric cars.

President Joe Biden has called for domestic production of such rare earth minerals because such production is now dominated by China.

Jim Sims, a NioCorp spokesman, said Monday that no decision has been made about adding rare earth minerals to the project.

“We are currently conducting technical and economic analyses on the potential,” he said.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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