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NioBay looking to develop 400 jobs at niobium deposit south of Moosonee

Jan 23, 2021

By Kevin Vincent
A billion-dollar project. That’s no small undertaking. But what the heck is niobium you might ask? While it doesn’t command many mining headlines, the chemical element has been used for over 200 years and is poised to play a growing role in the continuation of the greening of the global economy and northern Ontario is equally poised to play a big part, thanks to NioBay Metals which closed an $11 million fundraising effort in early December.
The company filed a Preliminary Economic Assessment in November for a deposit just south of Moosonee, suggesting it delivers an after-tax NPV (8%) on $1.0 billion and IRR of 27.5%. They are also looking to conduct a feasibility study soon.
The short version is this: Niobium was first discovered in the area in the 1960’s. Since then, several companies have had their fingerprints on the property but no-one has taken it this far until NioBay. The company has signed agreements with the region’s First Nations authority, Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) and the next step is more drilling and the march toward a feasibility study.
NioBay’s James Bay property is located east of the Township of Carroll in the district of Cochrane, on the Moose Cree First Nation Traditional Territory, 45 km south of Moosonee, in the James Bay Lowlands. The property comprises the Crown Mining Lease (# CLM11) and covers a total of 2,530 hectares.
The James Bay property was discovered in 1966 by Consolidated Morrison Explorations. Major exploration work carried out in 1968 and 1969, including about 14,600 meters of drilling in 85 holes established a deposit extending to 275 meters in depth and 500 meters longitudinally. Lakefield Research (now SGS Lakefield) carried out metallurgical tests in 1969, allowing for the development of a flow sheet for the niobium ore, to produce a niobium concentrate grading of about 65% pyrochlore (Nb2O5). The overall niobium recovery was 78% during the pilot tests which is by far the higher niobium recovery for this type of niobium deposit.



Niobay Map

A historical feasibility study was completed by the firm Canadian Bechtel Ltd. in 1969, and updated by the same firm in 1979.
Several studies dealing with specific aspects of the project were carried out between 1969 and 1979 by independent firms or companies for evaluation purposes, with a view to possible partnerships or acquisitions. At that time niobium price was a fraction of where it is today.
In June 2016, Niobay Metals Inc. acquired 100% of the property from Barrick Gold Inc., James Bay Columbium Ltd., and Goldcorp Inc.
According to documents filed with the market regulators, proposed infrastructure access to the mine site will be via a 38km all-season road from Moose River east bank south of Moosonee. A 4.0km one lane tunnel is planned to cross Moose River and a final 2.6km road segment will connect to the existing road to Moosonee near the Hydro One Renison substation.
From Moosonee, the Ontario Northland Railway connects to Cochrane and from there onto the Ontario Highway 11. Power will be provided from the Hydro One grid with a connection from the Renison substation.
The mining activities and processing facility will be supported by ancillaries located at site including a maintenance shop, warehouse, mine dry, explosives storage, fuel storage, administration building, and an operations camp.
Other infrastructure is planned to be in Moosonee such as a material transit terminal, laboratory, and administrative building for support functions such as accounting, human resources and other.
NioBay has also filed an Environment and Closure Plan. It is anticipated that the Project will require a review under the Federal Impact Assessment Act coordinated along with provincial Class Environmental Assessment.
It is anticipated that with the active participation of identified impacted First Nation communities, the closure plan will be integrated into the mine design and initial environmental approvals.
NioBay is collaborating with the First Nation community to design a plan of engagement to ensure that the environmental approvals are fully aligned with their values. As future exploration and/or baseline environmental work proceeds, the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) may want another longer-term agreement that speaks to both their environmental and business involvement with the Project.
NioBay was hosted by MCFN to provide a community update on March 5, 2020 to discuss the Drilling Program and presented opportunities for future collaborations.
NioBay also presented the results of the Project’s PEA on October 15, 2020.
The company completed its analysis of the drill results from the Drilling Program in May 2020, announced the results of the 2020 MRE on the James Bay Project in July 2020 and announced the results of its PEA on the James Bay Project in October 2020.
Based on the results of the PEA, the company is planning next steps in the development of the James Bay Project which may include a drilling campaign in 2021, on-going metallurgical testing, and the implementation of certain environmental and cultural baseline studies to be included in an eventual pre-feasibility study.
The project has potential for a huge economic impact on the region.
The company has already costed out three scenarios, an open pit operation, underground, and a hybrid model of the two methods.
In presentations to existing and potential investors, NioBay estimates construction costs at $500 million, $3.8 billion in operating expenses (jobs and contractors inc.), provincial taxes of $479 million, mining taxes of $226 million, federal taxes of $718 million, a $7 Billion contribution to Canada’s GDP, 400 jobs and a 23-30 year mine life with the possibility it will last even longer.  
The company cautions, however that “the PEA is preliminary in nature, includes inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves, and there is no certainty that the PEA will be realized. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.”
In December 2019, the Company signed a Protection Agreement (PA) with Moose Cree First Nation. The PA supports the Company’s early exploration and reflects the shared commitment to environmental protection.  The PA acknowledges that the exploration is undertaken on MCFN homeland and that the work will not impact MCFN members.  
 A 7 holes/3,450 m drill program began early February with the objective to test the high-grade extension laterally and at depth. The program will also provide fresh rock for further laboratory metallurgical tests, and also to provide geotechnical information.
The drill results will be published as they become available. A new 43-101 Mineral Resource Estimate will be performed following the completion of the drill program. Followed by a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) to be completed by the end of 2020.
NioBay’s major investors include Osisko Gold Royalties, the management group, and Caisse Depot Placement. The company is led by President and CEO Claude Dufresne, who helmed Niobec, which has been selling niobium worldwide for 20 years.


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