U.S. House approves defense bill that highlights growing urgency for the U.S. to produce more of its own critical minerals

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NioCorp Developments Ltd. [NB-TSX; NIOBF-OTCQX] applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for including in its Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (FY21 NDAA) legislative provisions aimed at highlighting the growing urgency for the U.S. to produce more of its own critical minerals, including niobium.

The House passed its version of the FY21 NDAA in a 295-125 bipartisan vote on Tuesday July 21.  The bill contains provisions highlighting the need to establish a domestic production capacity of niobium materials, as well as language supporting domestic production capacity of rare earth elements, which includes scandium.  Both niobium and scandium were designated by the U.S. government as “Critical Minerals” in 2018, and NioCorp plans to produce niobium, scandium, and titanium at its Elk Creek Superalloy Materials Project in Nebraska once project financing is secured and the Elk Creek Project is operational.

“NioCorp is pleased to see the U.S. House adopt this bipartisan call for efforts to strengthen critical minerals supply chains,” said Mark A. Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp. “In particular, the House bill specifically highlights the need to establish a secure domestic supply chain for niobium oxide. While our Elk Creek Project does not plan to initially produce high-purity niobium oxide materials, this initiative by Congress does shine a brighter light on the strategic importance of niobium in general. That is helpful to the Elk Creek Project, given that we intend to be the first to mine and process niobium in the U.S.”

The full U.S. Senate is currently debating its version of the FY21 NDAA, which was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. Assuming both bills get approved, they will go to a House-Senate conference committee where differences between the two versions are expected to be resolved. A final compromise measure is then presented to each chamber for a vote.  A final bill is then sent to the President for his signature or veto. An NDAA bill has been enacted into law every year for the past 59 years.

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