Quantum Rare Earth Developments Corp. (CVE:QRE) (OTCQX:QREDF) unveiled Monday a significant increase in the resource estimate for its Elk Creek niobium rare earth element project in southeastern Nebraska, with the addition of an indicated resource.
The updated NI 43-101 compliant report, which was prepared by Tetra Tech Wardrop, added a higher grade indicated resource of 19.3 million tonnes grading 0.67% niobium (Nb2O5), at a 0.4% niobium cut-off grade, for 129,182 contained niobium oxide tonnes.
"The addition of a substantially higher-grade indicated Mineral Resource gives us confidence in our continued development efforts of this very large and high grade niobium deposit," said president of Quantum, Peter Dickie.
Meanwhile, inferred resources increased from 80.1 million tonnes grading 0.62% niobium in the last estimate in April 2011 to 83.3 million tonnes grading 0.63% niobium for 523,844 tonnes of contained niobium oxide.
The company said the resource update is the result of an additional three holes completed at the Elk Creek niobium deposit in 201, which is an elongate, east-west orientated mineral occurrence in excess of 800 metres along strike.
The deposit remains open to the east, west and at depth, and is hosted by the Elk Creek Carbonatite - an intrusive complex of carbonatite and related rocks.
Quantum said it is planning an exploration program of both infill and expansion drilling, which will be aimed at increasing both the indicated and inferred resource base, and expanding on the higher grade portions of the deposit.
The metallurgical test program is on-going, and is based on composite samples of drill core obtained from last year. This work is being conducted at the Hazen Research facility in Golden, Colorado.
The Elk Creek Carbonatite is the only primary niobium deposit known to be under development in the U.S., and the highest grade undeveloped niobium deposit in North America, said Quantum.
Niobium is mainly used in the form of ferro-niobium to produce HSLA (High Strength, Low Alloy) steel for use in automotive, structural and pipeline industries. Currently, the U.S. imports 100 percent of its niobium needs, with niobium listed as a strategic metal. It is being considered for national stockpiling in the U.S., China, and several European countries.
Elk Creek was originally developed during the 1970s and 1980s, when Molycorp Inc. (NYSE:MCP), completed over 150,000 feet of drilling. Quantum Rare Earths secured the project in December of 2010, and immediately completed a compilation and digitization of all historic data, including re-assaying of 25 diamond drill holes of 14,739.8 metres, originally completed by Molycorp.
The deposit, which rests in southeastern Nebraska, is an oval shaped magnetic and gravity anomaly about seven kilometres in diameter, making it one of the largest known carbonatite complexes. Findings from the updated resource report are to be used to support a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for the property.
Some recent drill results from the site include hole NEC11-001, which returned 0.73 percent of niobium over 235.22 metres, including 54 metres of 1.17 percent of niobium.
Quantum Rare Earth, which is Vancouver-based, is an exploration company with a focus on seeking out potentially economic deposits of niobium and rare earth elements in North America and elsewhere in the world.