Nebraska governor says NioCorp’s Elk Creek a ‘high-priority’ project

Niobium is a key ingredient for making high performance steel (HPS), used in highway bridges and most mega-infrastructure projects. (Image courtesy of NioCorp via LinkedIn.)

Shares in US miner NioCorp Developments (TSX:NB) climbed Monday almost 8% after it said the governor of the state of Nebraska had told the Trump Administration that the company’s Elk Creek project should be considered “high priority.”

In a letter to the White House, Pete Ricketts said that green-lighting Niocorp’s huge superalloy project in southeast Nebraska could help the country produce American-made “super steels” for infrastructure projects across all 50 states.

“We need niobium, Mr. President, yet we don’t mine a single pound of it in the US today,” governor Pete Ricketts wrote. “Nebraska wants to change that, and as rapidly as possible.”

According to Ricketts, Elk Creek — a former Molycorp project — the US needs niobium, as the metal is key for manufacturing High Performance Steel (HPS). Those super steels, he noted, are increasingly being used in highway bridges and in virtually all mega-steel infrastructure projects to reduce corrosion, lengthen lifespans, cut costs, and reduce environmental impacts.

“American-made HPS steel can help highway bridges last in excess of a century (…) We need niobium, Mr. President, yet we don’t mine a single pound of it in the U.S. today.  Nebraska wants to change that, and as rapidly as possible,” Ricketts said in his message to President Donald Trump.

The letter comes in response to an executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects that can bring jobs and other benefits to the US.

Investors reacted positively to the news, with the stock trading 7.94% higher to 68 cents at 11:58AM ET.

Based on current forecasts, Niobium demand is going to surpass the supply capacity from the three existing producers — CBMM, Anglo American and IAMGOLD’s Niobec.

According to NioCorp, its Elk Creek asset is the only primary niobium deposit in the US, and the highest-grade, large-tonnage currently undeveloped in North America.

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