Metal Tech News - February 5, 2024
In support of a homegrown technology that will help bolster Canada's leadership in responsible production of critical minerals needed for the clean energy and digital economy, Natural Resources Canada's (NRCan) Critical Minerals Research, Development, and Demonstration program is investing C$4.2 million (US$3.1 million) into Ucore Rare Metals Inc.'s RapidSX rare earths separation platform.
During the Feb. 5 announcement of NRCan funding of the RapidSX technology being commercialized in Ontario, Canada, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said the demand for rare earths will only grow as the transition to clean energy progresses.
"That is why we are taking action to build resilient and secure supply chains that provide the materials we need, and the good jobs Canadian workers deserve right here in Canada," he said. "Investments like today's help to support these goals and will help us to build a prosperous and sustainable low-carbon economy that works for everyone."
The NRCan funding formalizes an announcement in November that the Canadian government would be investing in Ucore's RapidSX Commercialization and Demonstration plant in Kingston, Ontario.
"Ucore is very appreciative of this NRCan opportunity to demonstrate our transformative RapidSX technology for the separation of rare earth elements with our Canadian project partners, Cyclic Materials, Defense Metals and Kingston Process Metallurgy," said Ucore Rare Metals Chief Operating Officer Mike Schrider. "Through this project, we are moving Canada closer to fully incorporating these critical supply chain metals on a significant commercial scale."
Ucore's patent-pending RapidSX technology is a more efficient and environmentally sound upgrade to the mixer-settler solvent methods that have been the standard for separating rare earths in China for more than four decades.
Independent testing has shown that the innovative column-based RapidSX platform can separate rare earths nearly 10 times faster within a footprint that is about one-third the size required for the large vat-based methods found at traditional REE processing facilities.
Developing more efficient and sustainable methods of rare earth separation is essential to competing with China in terms of the cost of producing these metals in high demand for electric vehicles and wind turbines while also meeting the much higher environmental expectations of the governments, manufacturers, and consumers in western nations like Canada and the U.S.
Having already demonstrated the viability of RapidSX at the pilot scale, Ucore is now taking the final step toward commercialization at its demonstration project in Ontario.
NRCan's investment will help support a roughly C$8.3 million (US$6.1 million) project to scale up RapidSX commercial readiness, which will include processing rare earths feedstock from Canadian and U.S. sources.
The Canadian government sees technologies such as the RapidSX platform being commercialized in Kingston, Ontario, as a key to realizing the potential of its rich endowment of rare earth resources without the need to ship concentrates overseas to separate the notoriously tightly interlocked rare earths into the individual elements needed for the clean energy and high-tech sectors.
"Canada is a reliable, stable and secure supplier for critical minerals and the products they enable - we have what it takes to thrive in the low-carbon future, from abundant resources to skilled workers," said Mark Gerretsen, Canada Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands. "Investments like this one are precisely what we need to see in order to seize the economic opportunities of the low-carbon future while creating good local jobs in communities like Kingston."