NioCorp Developments (TSX: NB; NASDAQ: NB) and L3 Process Developments have made a breakthrough in niobium and titanium recovery that may result in higher-purity products. The improvement came during testing at L3’s demonstration plant in Trois-Rivieres, Que., while using material from NioCorp’s proposed Elk Creek critical minerals project in Nebraska.
L3 has been testing an improved version of the processing flowsheet for Elk Creek, where niobium, titanium and scandium will be produced. The breakthrough has the potential to reduce operating and capital costs as well as increase the grades of the commercial products.
The information will be used in updating the Elk Creek feasibility study due to be completed later this year.
The demo plant has also best testing the possibility of recovering several magnetic rare earth elements (REE) from the ore. If separating and purifying REE is feasible, the project will also produce neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium. That capability would boost the Elk Creek indicated REE resource into being the second largest in the United States.
NioCorp has already determined that overall recoveries for these four magnetic REE are likely to be greater than 92% and would meet commercial purity specifications. Because rare earths and scandium behave very similarly in solution during separation, the company believes it has the technology to successfully produce a saleable rare earth oxide product.
Recent testing has focused on using a single hydrolysis step followed by chlorination and condensation to produce niobium and titanium chlorides. These can easily be converted to oxides, which are saleable. The results demonstrate excellent separation between the two metals with lower base metal impurities that would be achieved using the flowsheet as originally planned.
The Elk Creek mine is shovel-ready with a probable reserve of 36.7 million tonnes grading 0.811% niobium oxide, 2.92% titanium oxide, and 70.2 g/t scandium.
Learn more on www.NioCorp.com/elk-creek-project.