Another Vital REE milestone at Nechalacho
Operations begin at rare earths mine in Northwest Territories Metal Tech News – March 31, 2021
Last updated 4/6/2021 at 4:39pm
Reaching another major milestone on its path to being Canada's first rare earths producer, Vital Metals Ltd. has begun mining at its Nechalacho REE project in Northwest Territories.
A 110-kilometer- (68 miles) long, 1.1-meter-thick ice road running across the north side of Great Slave Lake from Dettah, Northwest Territories near Yellowknife was opened for deliveries to the mine site on March 20.
Crushing plant, mining equipment, fuel, and other equipment and supplies needed have been delivered over this ice road.
"We have been progressively achieving all the steps necessary to commence mining and rare earths production at Nechalacho over the past 12 months, and mobilization of the mining fleet is another important milestone," said Vital Metals Managing Director Geoff Atkins.
Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction Ltd., a Northwest Territories-based company 51% owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, is preparing North T Zone rare earths zone for mining.
"The Yellowknives Dene First Nation is pleased to be the first Indigenous group in Canada to be responsible for mineral extraction on their traditional territory," said Yellowknives Dene First Nations Chief Ernest Betsina. "When indigenous people conduct the mining operations, they are better able to control the process, resulting in better safeguarding of the environment."
Under the direction of Cheetah Resource Corp., Vital's Canada-based subsidiary, Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction will mine near surface rare earth ore from a small open pit at North T, a near surface and high-grade deposit at Nechalacho with 105,000 metric tons of resources averaging 8.9% (9,345 metric tons) total rare earth oxides.
It is expected that Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction will be able to mine, crush, and stockpile enough ore by the end of September to feed Vital's ore sorting plant through 2023.
Vital anticipates that the First Nation-owned construction company will be needed for a second mining campaign to replenish stockpiles in 2024.
"Meaningful participation in the extraction of critical minerals for the green economy provides employment and procurement benefits for our members and businesses," Chief Betsina added.
The ore stockpiled by Det'on Cho Nahanni will be upgraded with an x-ray transmission (XRT) ore sorting plant operated by Cheetah before being shipped to Vital's rare earth carbonate production plant being developed adjacent to Saskatchewan Research Council's REE processing facility in an industrial park in Saskatoon, the largest city in Saskatchewan.
In mid-March, Vital completed a A$43 million (US$32.9 million) financing, which is expected to provide the cash needed to fund this Stage 1 program at Nechalacho's North T Zone.
"We look forward to commencement of our first mining campaign for Stage 1 operations at the North T zone this month, and expect this will provide cashflow for our larger scale, longer life operation at Tardiff, where we are currently drilling to define a preliminary mine plan as Stage 2 of the project," said Atkins.
According to a resource calculated in December, the Upper zone at Nechalacho hosts 94.7 million metric tons of Australian Joint Ore Reserves Committee- (JORC) compliant resource averaging 1.46% total rare earth oxides.
In addition to rare earths, this deposit hosts the critical metals niobium, tantalum, and zirconium.
Mining contractor Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction will commence operations at Nechalacho's North T Zone within days following its mobilization via the private Nechalacho ice road which is a 110km long, 1.1m thick engineered ice road on the Great Slave Lake from Dettah, Yellowknife Bay, NWT to the Nechalacho Rare Earth Project on the Hearne Channel in Chief Drygees Territory.
"We are excited to be commencing operations at Nechalacho rare earth project and following our recent $43m raising, proud to be fully funded to become Canada's first rare earth producer."