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Saskatchewan critical mineral partnerships

Metal Tech News - April 17, 2024

Canadian province signs strategic minerals partnership with France; Saskatchewan Research Council secures rare earths feedstock for Saskatoon processing plant.

Saskatchewan's strategy to become a North American hub for the minerals and metals critical to clean energy and other future-leaning technologies was bolstered by two agreements signed on Monday.

The first agreement was a letter of intent signed with France to explore, develop, and cooperate on new strategic mineral projects.

"Throughout our province's history, our mining and resource sector has remained vital to our economy and labor force," said Saskatchewan Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison. "New partnerships like this one strengthen that history and move us forward in our goals to build opportunities and protect communities."

On the same day that the provincial government signed the critical minerals cooperation agreement with France, the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) signed an agreement with Hung Thinh Group (HTG) for a five-year supply of rare earth carbonates from Vietnam that will serve as a feedstock for SRC's new rare earths processing plant near Saskatoon, Sask.

"Working with the international community to secure this supply of critical minerals for SRC's Rare Earth Processing Facility marks another step forward in establishing a domestic rare earth element hub in Saskatchewan," Harrison added.

Strategic partnership with France

Home to rich stores of uranium, potash, rare earth elements, helium, lithium, copper, and many other minerals deemed critical to Canada, Saskatchewan is well-positioned to be a reliable supplier of these mined materials.

As the world transitions to a clean energy economy, global demand for many of the critical minerals found in Saskatchewan is set to skyrocket by 400 to 600% over the next several decades. This, coupled with China's dominating the supply of many critical minerals, has Western nations seeking to secure future supplies.

"Strategic minerals are key for the ongoing transition to a low-carbon economy, whether it be building electric vehicles or producing the energy that our societies require, and therefore reinforcing France' sovereignty," said French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade Franck Riester.

This is why France is partnering with Saskatchewan to improve the security and sustainability of its critical mineral supply chain, as well as to share knowledge on critical minerals research, development, and innovation.

"This agreement with the Saskatchewan government is one of the first we have signed with a Canadian province, after the one signed with Quebec last November," said Riester. "That says a lot about the priority we attach to our relationship with Saskatchewan."

For Saskatchewan, this agreement with the world's seventh-largest economy bolsters its strategy to build a strong economy around its rich critical mineral endowment.

Rare earths supply agreement

In addition to leveraging its rich geology, Saskatchewan's critical mineral strategy involves using the intellectual capital contained within SRC, the second-largest research and technology organization in Canada.

SRC's areas of expertise include more than 70 years of experience in mining and minerals processing.

In recent years, SRC has been applying this know-how toward establishing a facility in Saskatchewan that can separate rare earths into individual elements, the most complex segment of the supply chain, and then upgrade the REE oxides produced into metals that can be used by industry.

This plant outside the city of Saskatoon has the capacity to separate and produce neodymium and praseodymium metals – the primary rare earths used in the powerful permanent magnets for EV motors, wind turbine generators, and countless other applications.

In February, Natural Resources Canada provided SRC with C$5 million (US$3.6 million) in federal funds to support the ability to separate dysprosium and terbium – less abundant and higher-valued rare earths that add heat resistance and durability to the powerful permanent magnets used in EV motors and wind turbines – at the Saskatoon plant.

"Critical minerals like the rare earth elements that will be produced through SRC's innovative new separation process are integral parts of the electric vehicle value chain," said Canada Minister of Energy and Natural Resource Jonathan Wilkinson.

Saskatchewan Research Council

Muhammad Imran, vice-president of the SRC's rare earth element division (left), and Hung Thinh Group Deputy General Director Dam Thi Ha Tien, sign a rare earth carbonates supply agreement.

An agreement signed with Hung Thinh Group on April 15 will provide SRC with up to 3,000 metric tons of mixed rare earth carbonate per year to be processed through the Saskatoon plant, which is expected to be enough to produce roughly 400 metric tons of rare earth metals per year.

"The production of rare earth metals will develop and stimulate the rare earth industry in North America," SRC President and CEO Mike Crabtree said. "This agreement with HTG ensures SRC will be producing rare earth element products for sale in the international market until the end of this decade."

France, which signed the LOI with Saskatchewan at SRC, will likely be interested in some of the rare earths coming out of the Saskatoon processing plant.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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