Through the transaction, Smith, who was already NioCorp's largest shareowner, increased his holdings to just over 17.9 million shares or 11.8 percent of total outstanding shares on an undiluted basis.
"This share acquisition represents both my continued belief in NioCorp's mission and continued support of our efforts with the Elk Creek project….We have received positive feedback from the Elk Creek, Nebraska community, our prospective customers, and the investment community, without whom the continued success of this project could not be achieved," Smith said in a statement.
NioCorp also said that it would grant a total of 150,000 incentive stock options, with an exercise price of CDN $0.80 per share, to certain of its employees under its Stock Option Plan.
NioCorp is developing the only primary niobium deposit known to be under development in the U.S., and the highest grade undeveloped niobium deposit in North America, located near Elk Creek, Nebraska.
Last May NioCorp updated the preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for the Elk Creek Niobium project predicting an annual production of 7,500 tonnes of ferroniobium at a cost of US$6.50/kg and the company is now working to complete the feasibility study.
NioCorp expects total upfront expenditures of US$919 million while pre-tax NPV and IRR will be US$875 million and 16.6% respectively. After-tax NPV is projected at US$606 million with an IRR of 14.6%.
The results of the PEA, based according to a 3,700 tonne per day production rate over a 36 year operating life with an average grade of 0.82% niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5), will be used to prepare a bankable feasibility study.
The Elk Creek deposit has delivered some of the highest niobium grades and recovery rates in the world. NioCorp is set to produce at an average grade of 0.7% or above, placing it solidly as the third richest niobium ore deposit in the world, behind CBMM and Anglo American, both of which operate in Brazil.
Over the past 12 months, the stock has almost quadrupled in value.
The company has led an aggressive development path over the past year, finishing a three-phase drilling program in 2014 that more than tripled contained niobium resources at the site, while also moving to secure project financing.
Last December, NioCorp secured an offtake agreement with Germany's ThyssenKrupp and it was named the top TSX Venture 50 company for 2015 and has now stepped up to the TSX. In May, NioCorp was also inducted into the OTCQX's 2015 Best 50.
Niobium is combined with iron to produce an alloy known as 'ferroniobium', which is used to produce HSLA (High Strength, Low Alloy) steel. It has become an essential metal to help produce lighter, stronger steel for use in automotive, structural and pipeline industries.
The material is one of fourteen metals or groups of metals that the Council of Europe has identified as critical. The United States National Research Council considers it even more important, listing it as one of the five "most critical" metals.