The commodities markets haven't been friendly to junior and development-stage companies recently, but that hasn't stopped NioCorp Developments (TSXV:NB) from charging ahead. Encouragingly, it's met with success — its stock is up 360 percent so far this year having gained roughly 150 percent over the summer. In terms of what the company's been up to, it released a string of high-grade drill results over the summer, and on Monday it put out the latest updated resource estimate for its flagship Elk Creek niobium deposit in Nebraska. Furthermore, NioCorp announced the same day that it has entered into an agreement in connection with a $16.5-million best-efforts private placement. Mainly produced in Brazil and Canada, niobium is important in the construction of high-strength, low-weight steel, and the lighter metal makes a notable difference in vehicle fuel efficiency when added to car frames. NioCorp currently holds the only known niobium deposit in the United States. Bigger and better According to Monday's release, Elk Creek now has an indicated resource of 28,200,000 tonnes and an inferred resource of 132,800,000 tonnes using a cut-off grade of 0.3-percent Nb2O5; that's a respectable increase from the company's 2012 resource estimate on the property. The company also reported higher grades of Nb2O5 and increased amounts of contained niobium for the resource, with numbers for contained Nb2O5 rising to 177,000 tonnes and 733,700 tonnes in the indicated and inferred categories, respectively. NioCorp CEO Mark A. Smith certainly seems happy with the news. "Drill results have far exceeded our expectations on this deposit," he said in a statement. "[W]e are very pleased to be able to deliver this resource update to shareholders."