Largest Rare Earth Mine in the World Discovered in Nebraska

The rare earth property, a 14-square-mile track of farmland in S.E. Nebraska, could employ hundreds once the mine is developed. The deal calls for Quantum to pay $10 million to acquire Elk Creek Resources Corp., a Canadian-owned, Nebraska-based company that leased the southeast Nebraska property, according to a story published in the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday.

NE Senator Lavon Heidemann, who was instrumental in putting together the deal said, "it could be huge for the state of Nebraska," if the mine goes into production, which is forecast to take up to five years once further exploratory drilling is completed.

It’s a matter of economics, Sen. Heidemann noted. "If they decide to put a mine down, it won’t be tens of millions of dollars in investment, it would be hundreds of millions."

Yet with China calling for a moratorium on exports of rare earths, the U.S. government has grown concerned over development of domestic supplies, making the Quantum property possibly one of the more lucrative discoveries of the decade in the mining sector and likely to attract the kind of capital needed to place the niobium mine into full production.

Niobium is used in the production of high-strength steel used in manufacturing jet engines. The Nebraska mine would also produce other rare earth elements that go into making everything from batteries for laptop computers and electric cars to magnets in wind-power generators.

A source close to the venture capital community said "capital wouldn’t be a problem," considering the property was well-known, though no one had stepped up and put a deal together — until now. "With China threatening strategic North American supplies mining at a 500 foot depth to extract the niobium and other rare earth elements at this point is more than cost-effective."