Canadian government invests more money into Saskatchewan’s rare earth element production

Click to play video: 'Government invests more money into Sask.’s rare earth element production'
Government invests more money into Sask.’s rare earth element production
On Thursday, Saskatchewan Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison discussed the federal and provincial government's investment into midstream rare earth mineral applications which help restore the confidence of the private sector to make investments in mining – Mar 14, 2024

The Rare Earth Processing Facility in Saskatoon will receive more federal funding to help commercialize some of the processes at the facility.

Federal Minister for PrairiesCan Dan Vandal said $6 million will improve the process to separate unrecovered rare earth oxides from radioactive monazite tailings.

He said these oxides would normally be disposed of and that more rare earth material will be recovered from these processes.

The money will also be used to create an automated metal smelting process.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan announces new critical minerals strategy to expand resource development, export'
Saskatchewan announces new critical minerals strategy to expand resource development, export

“These latest innovations will ensure Saskatchewan is producing the highest quality rare earth element (REE) metals to power global technology,” said the provincial minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) Jeremy Harrison.

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Saskatoon’s processing facility is the first of its kind in Canada and Vandal spoke about the value of it.

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“Saskatchewan’s leadership in this sector will help establish a domestic rare earth supply chain that adds value to our economy and creates good jobs for Canadians,” Vandal said.

“This funding will allow SRC to optimize two important processes in the rare earth supply chain, producing more REE and at the same time doing it quicker, safer and with less demand on manual labour,” Saskatchewan Research Council President and CEO Mike Crabtree said.

Click to play video: 'Shaping Saskatchewan: Mike Crabtree'
Shaping Saskatchewan: Mike Crabtree

The Government of Canada said it has identified 31 critical minerals in the country, with 23 of them being found in Saskatchewan.

Vital Metals Canada, a separate company that created a rare earth element plant in Saskatoon and received $5 million from the feds in September 2022 had terminated the plant and declared bankruptcy in mid-2023.

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Vandal said they’ve started a process to recuperate what they can from Vital Metals, but said they’ll continue to invest in rare earth element processing because of the important of the metals.

“Rare earth production is important to a net-zero future and that work needs to continue.”

He said the partnerships between the provinces, the feds and the industry were also important when it came to rare earth production.

Click to play video: 'The pros and cons of rare earth elements'
The pros and cons of rare earth elements

Harrison said in the short-term they’ll need to source the raw material for the processing facility from outside the country, but the medium and long-term goal was to source all that here in Saskatchewan.

He said China has enterprises that are dominating the industry right now and that it is a strategic move to have government involved in these projects to help create conditions so private companies will have the confidence to invest in the mining portion of rare earth element production.

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About $71 million of provincial funding has been poured into this project, which Harrison says will create a significant return on investment for residents in the long-term.

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