Rare earth metal mining coming to Nebraska
NioCorp plans to set up niobium mine near Elk Creek
SYRACUSE, Neb. (WOWT) - Most of us don’t know what niobium is. But when it’s added to steel, it doubles its strength.
Currently, we import all of it. But that will change when a company starts mining for it in southeastern Nebraska.
“You probably don’t look at cars like I do,” said Mark Smith, CEO of NioCorp. “I see cars. I see niobium. every single car that has a steel chassis has it. It makes the car lighter, which means the car can go further on a tank of gas. It’s part of the environment movement.”
Recently, NioCorp started clearing trees and brush from the property in Elk Creek, Neb., to get ready.
As soon as the financing details are complete, estimated to happen in the first part of 2023, construction of the plant will begin. It’s expected to take three years to build.
Company officials invited governor-elect Jim Pillen to the town hall at the Otoe County fairgrounds, where they shared a progress report. They said this is the closest they’ve ever been to breaking ground.
“We’ll also be producing scandium,” Smith said. “Scandium does for aluminum what niobium does for steel. you add just a little bit to aluminum and it makes it stronger and lighter.”
There will be 1,200 construction jobs to start, 450 permanent mining jobs — with the economic spokes spreading to a number of communities.
Company officials stress they will do this with a big focus on the environment.
“This isn’t just talk,” Smith said. “We started as in the health safety and environmental world. So to us, operating a business in the right way keeps people safe and the environment as unharmed as possible. That’s the way we do business.”
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