Automaker Stellantis signs deal company seeking to mine in Nebraska for rare earths needed in EVs

Jul 6, 2023, 10:06 AM

FILE - NioCorp Chief Operating Officer Scott Honan tells a group of investors during a tour of the ...

FILE - NioCorp Chief Operating Officer Scott Honan tells a group of investors during a tour of the site on Oct. 6, 2021, about the plans for a proposed mine near Elk Creek in southeast Nebraska. The company that wants to build a mine in southeast Nebraska has signed a deal with a major automaker to sell the rare earth elements it hopes to produce to help Stellantis make more electric vehicles. NioCorp announced the tentative deal Thursday, July 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Josh Funk, File)

(AP Photo/Josh Funk, File)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The company that wants to mine for needed for its electric vehicles.

NioCorp announced the tentative agreement with the automaker whose brands include Chrysler, Alfa Romeo and Maserati on Thursday. The companies didn’t disclose how much Stellantis will pay because those details are still being negotiated, but this deal with such a high-profile buyer will likely provide a boost to NioCorp’s effort to raise $1.1 billion to establish the mine about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Omaha near the town of Elk Creek.

It’s also not clear just how much of the highly sought-after elements Stellantis would be able to buy as part of this agreement 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.

But most of the rare earth elements available today are pressing for more of them to be mined domestically.

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

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

The Centennial, Colorado, company still has a long ways to go to raise the $1.1 billion it needs to establish the mine. But NioCorp officials are 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, but that won’t be decided until after the companies finalize the rare earth purchase agreement.

Stellantis’ Maxime Picat said in a statement that this agreement should help the automaker meet its goals to produce more electric vehicles and cut its carbon emissions.

Currently, America MP Materials in Mountain Pass, California.

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Automaker Stellantis signs deal company seeking to mine in Nebraska for rare earths needed in EVs