NioCorp is hoping to begin producing superalloy metals, which it defined as niobium, scandium and titanium, by 2021. The target application is for material needs in clean energy, aerospace, defence, automotive, commercial aviation and more.
Company CEO and executive chairman Mark Smith noted that Rockwell, which will serve as the project's main automation contractor, was selected to automate its process equipment and power control systems, with the goal of optimising material handling and processing, increasing efficiencies and reducing time to market.
"Their combination of industry expertise, proven methodologies and advanced automation technology should help us develop a truly world-class mine that can initiate the first-ever greenfield mining and processing of niobium and scandium in the United States," he said.
System integration at Elk Creek will be provided by Maverick Technologies, a Rockwell Automation company. Strategic partner Endress+Hauser will provide field instrumentation for the project, including analysis, temperature, pressure, level and flow measurement devices, valves and other related field devices and services.
Elk Creek, with a 32-year operating life, will have the distinction of being North America's highest-grade niobium deposit. Once online, its production could reach annual averages in excess of 7,000t of ferroniobium, 103t of scandium trioxide and over 11,000t of titanium dioxide.
Earlier this month, the US government officially designated the entire planned product suite of Elk Creek as "critical minerals". The designation makes the complex one of the few polymetallic greenfield mining projects in the nation that proposes to produce multiple critical minerals. The US is currently 100% dependent on foreign nations, such as China and Russia, to import these minerals.