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The company hoping to mine rare metals in Southeast Nebraska now says the mine could be an even bigger economic boon for the area than previously estimated.

Niocorp Developments Ltd. on Tuesday released an updated feasibility study that now estimates the mine could generate nearly $21 billion over its useful life, about 16% more than what was estimated in the original feasibility study released in June 2017.

Some of that is due to the fact that the mine is now expected to produce for 36 years, four more years than what was estimated in the original study.

Niocorp is hoping to extract niobium, scandium and titanium from the site near Elk Creek in Johnson County, about 70 miles southeast of Lincoln.

The company continues to try to raise money to pay for construction of the mine, and the new feasibility study provided good news on that front as well.

It now estimates it will take approximately $880 million to build the mine and get it up and running, down from an earlier estimate of just more than $1 billion.

The reduction in costs is largely due to new technologies the company plans to use, including artificial ground freezing technologies for mine shaft sinking and onsite water treatment that eliminates the need to construct a pipe to discharge excess water into the Missouri River.

“This new mining plan and feasibility study update is a major step forward in the effort to advance the Elk Creek Project to financing, construction and commercial operation,” Niocorp CEO Mark Smith said in a news release.

The company has been working on developing the mine since 2011. It had originally hoped to begin construction last year, and has not given an update on when work might begin.

In a December presentation to investors, Niocorp said negotiations on funding sources were going, "very well," and it was trying to make the process "go as fast as possible."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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