Saskatchewan REE separation plant coming
Facility will help establish a rare earth supply chain in Canada Metal Tech News – September 2, 2020
Last updated 9/15/2020 at 8:59pm
Canada's first commercial rare earth processing facility is expected to be operational in Saskatchewan by 2022.
The government of the central Canadian province announced it is investing C$31 million in a facility with the ability to both concentrate ore and separate the concentrates into individual rare earth elements. This will help to establish a rare earth supply chain in Saskatchewan and form a model for future commercialization of the province's rich REE resource potential.
"Saskatchewan's new rare earth processing facility will be a catalyst to stimulate the resource sector in Saskatchewan and across Canada, providing the early-stage supply chain needed to generate cash-flow, investment and industrial growth of the sector," said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. "It will also help ensure the competitiveness of Saskatchewan as we focus on our economic recovery and grow our province over the next decade."
Rare earths are a group of 17 elements with unique properties that have a growing range of technological and industrial applications.
"There are literally hundreds of uses for rare earths – they are unique materials, almost alchemistical magic," said Michael Silver, CEO of American Elements, a Los Angeles-based distributor of rare earths and thousands of other advanced materials.
The seemingly magical properties of this group of critical metals are being used in a wide array of high-tech devices – from speakers that deliver rich sound but are small enough to fit in your ear, to enormous wind turbines generators delivering high-efficiency green-power to electrical grids around the world.
"Rare earth elements are going to play a major role in powering the 21st century and Saskatchewan is rich in these incredibly valuable minerals," said Moe.
More than 35 sizable REE deposits rich enough to potentially sustain a mining operation have been identified across Canada, including many in Saskatchewan.
A high-grade deposit with many of the rare earths in highest demand by the renewable energy and EV sectors has been identified at Alces Lake, a project in northern Saskatchewan being advanced by Appia Energy Corp.
"Appia is very pleased and excited to learn that the Saskatoon rare earth processing plant will be up and running by the end of 2022, especially since it is in such close proximity to Appia's high-grade critical rare earth Alces Lake project," said Appia Energy President and CEO Tom Drivas.
While Saskatchewan and other Canadian provinces and territories host deposits with some mix of the entire suite of rare earths, there are currently no commercial scale facilities in North America capable of separating the tightly interlocked rare earths into the individual elements needed for high-tech applications.
In fact, only one commercial facility outside of China, Lynas Corp.'s facility in Malaysia, currently has this REE separation capacity.
The ability to handle the complex task of rare earth separation makes the coming Saskatchewan REE separation facility being planned for an industrial park in Saskatoon, the largest city in Saskatchewan, an important development for the province and Canada.
The facility will be owned and operated by the Saskatchewan Research Council, the second largest research and technology organization in Canada. SRC already provides a wide range of technological services to mining companies in Canada and around the globe, including mineral processing, mineral analysis, kimberlite processing, and diamond recovery.
For nearly a decade, SRC has also been involved in REE primary processing and separation technologies.
"Having the SRC plant in the same province as our project will substantially benefit Appia and its shareholders," said Drivas.
As a foundation for a REE supply chain, the SRC separation plant will also bolster Saskatchewan's already strong reputation as global mining jurisdiction.
"Saskatchewan has a globally recognized mining industry, workforce and culture with local companies already beginning to explore REE deposits both in Saskatchewan, and in surrounding provinces and territories," said Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan minister responsible for SRC "This facility will allow the REE industry to grow and create both immediate and long-term jobs."