The company working to build a rare metals mine in Southeast Nebraska now says it will not need to build a pipeline to the Missouri River to discharge salt water.
Niocorp Developments Ltd. said Tuesday that ongoing engineering work shows the pipeline is no longer needed.
Niocorp, which is based in Centennial, Colorado, is in the process of raising money to construct a mine to extract niobium, scandium and titanium at a site near Elk Creek in Johnson County, about 70 miles southeast of Lincoln. The company needs about $1 billion to get the mine up and running and has said it would produce pre-tax cash flow of more than $400 million a year and employ several hundred people.
In 2016, Niocorp said a 30-mile, 24-inch diameter pipeline would be necessary to continuously drain brackish underground water from the surrounding bedrock to keep the mine from flooding.
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In a news release Tuesday, however, the company said recently updated hydrogeological findings show that significantly less bedrock water may be encountered during mining operations than was estimated.
Niocorp now believes whatever water it does encounter can be treated onsite and then either be re-injected into the ground or refined into a solid salt product.
Not needing to construct the pipeline means Niocorp will not have to get two permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, nor will it have to complete a federal environmental assessment that could take several months.
It also could save about $127 million, although the company cautioned that the firm doing the engineering work, Nordmin Group, also is redesigning other aspects of the mine project that could raise costs in other areas.