ELK CREEK -- A Canadian mining company said Thursday it has a drill rig onsite and will begin drilling west of Elk Creek "within a day" for niobium, a rare metal valued for its streel strengthening and heat-resistant properties.
Quantum Rare Earth Development Corp. said earlier its initial drilling would help determine boundaries of the ore deposit. Then Quantum will have to analyze samples to determine the best method for extracting niobium from the ore. Any large-scale drilling, with the potential for several hundred jobs, is expected to be several years away.
Elk Creek Resources, a Nebraska corporation created by Quantum Rare Earth Developmen, identified its contractor as Black Rock Drilling Corp. of Spokane.
Elk Creek Resources owns the lease rights to the "Elk Creek Project," an area west of Elk Creek that Quantum Rare Earth says has the potential to become one of the world's largest sources of niobium and other rare earth elements used in cell phones, wind turbines and hybrid car batteries, among other products.
"This is the first time in over a quarter century that mineral exploration drilling has commenced in the area," Elk Creek Resources said in a news release.
Fugro Airborne Surveys of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, a contractor hired by Quantum, recently completed an aerial flyover survey of the Elk Creek area, collecting data about the magnetic and gravitational properties of the sub-surface ore body.