NioCorp Developments (CVE:NB)(OTCQX:NIOBF) has unveiled the final results from its phase III drilling program at its Elk Creek project in Nebraska, as the company approaches the release of its feasibility next quarter.
The company said the final results continue to support niobium mineralization in the area of the defined resources, as well as its continuation at depth.
With the three phase drilling program now complete, NioCorp says it now has a much better understanding of the ore body and what it looks like underground, with an updated resource report expected toward the end of January.
Among the highlights, hole NEC14-021 returned 304 metres at 0.98% niobium, including 88 metres at 1.28% niobium. Hole NEC14-020 intercepted 351 metres at 0.71% niobium.
"The final Phase III drilling results continue to be extremely encouraging and supportive of our project," said chief executive officer Mark Smith.
"I could not be more pleased with the overall high-grade assay results that have been delivered from all aspects of our drilling done in 2014."
"We have accomplished a tremendous amount of work in this past year, and I would strongly encourage people to visit our website to see a review of all this work in our 2014 Shareholder Update," continued Smith.
NioCorp is coming off a banner 2014, which saw the company's stock surge 400 percent after undertaking the three-phase development drilling program and completing work required to finish off a feasibility report, which is due out in the second quarter this year.
Aside from approaching the release of its feasibility study, the promise of a high grade niobium supply in North America has already managed to secure NioCorp confidentiality agreements with top investment banks Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.
The preliminary arrangement puts NioCorp in a leading position as the bankers are able to conduct their due diligence on the project while the company is busy finishing up the feasibility study. Typically, a feasibility study has to be completed before companies can even sit down to have preliminary discussions with banks, only then beginning a due diligence process which can last up to nine months.
The ore grades at the deposit are among the top three in the world, and the recovery rates promise to "reset the standard for what world class niobium recovery is going to be," says Smith. Indeed, the average grade NioCorp is looking at is 0.7% or above, placing it solidly as the third richest niobium ore deposit in the world, behind CBMM and Anglo American, which both operate in Brazil.
The development of the mine comes amid a solid backdrop, with a strong compound annual growth rate of 10 percent for global niobium demand from 2000 to 2010, and even more robust growth forecast in the near and longer term. The U.S. currently imports 100 percent of its niobium needs, and NioCorp, with its mine in Nebraska, plans to become the first US supplier, taking up about 5 to 7 percent of the global market with targeted production of 7,500 metric tonnes per year.