Stellantis Partners With NioCorp to Mine Rare Earth Minerals in SE Nebraska

Stellantis, a provider of innovative mobility solutions and leading global automaker based in Amsterdam, has inked a contract with a company to mine rare earth elements in southeastern Nebraska, according to published reports by Reuters and the Associated Press.  Stellantis will use the critical elements to produce high-powered magnets required for its electric vehicles. 

Colorado-based NioCorp Developments announced the tentative agreement on Thursday with Stellantis, whose brands include Chrysler, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. The companies didn’t disclose how much Stellantis will pay because those details are still being negotiated. The deal, one of many collaborative projects between the two companies, will likely provide a boost to NioCorp’s effort to raise $1.1 billion to establish the mine about 80 miles south of Omaha near the town of Elk Creek.

It’s also not clear just how much of the rare earth elements will be purchased by  Stellantis because NioCorp is still working to determine whether it will be make economic sense to produce the neodymium-praseodymium oxide, dysprosium oxide and terbium oxide used to make magnets. The proposed mine’s main product would be niobium that’s used to make steel lighter and stronger.

China produces most of the rare earth elements available today but President Biden has advocated for an increase in domestic mining of these significant elements. 

“This could really turbocharge our project financing and help to accelerate moving the project to construction and eventual commercial operation,” said NioCorp CEO Mark Smith.

NioCorp has raised more than $80 million since 2013 to explore the Elk Creek site but development of the project dates back to the 1970s when a different company initially began drilling samples. The proposed mine is expected to create over 400 jobs if it is built.

At least $1.1 billion is required by NioCorp to establish the mine. The company remains optimistic because they have applied for up to $800 million in financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which is in the process of reviewing the mining company’s applications.

NioCorp also said Stellantis will consider investing in the mine although that decision won’t be decided until the companies finalize the rare earth purchase agreement.

The U.S. currently imports all niobium, scandium and most of the titanium and rare earths that NioCorp hopes to produce. The only U.S. mine that produces rare earth minerals is operated by MP Materials in Mountain Pass, California.