Key Step in the Value Chain: Canada Promotes Construction of a Rare Earth Plant

by | 15. Mar 2024 - 15:32 | Politics

Support pledged for “most environmentally sustainable plant in the world”. Through efficiency and sustainability, Canada wants to compete with raw materials giant China.

Canada’s government will support the construction of a domestic processing plant for rare earths in Saskatoon with the equivalent of almost 4.5 million US dollars. The first of its kind in the North American country, it is to be operated by the state-funded research and technology organisation Saskatchewan Research Council (we reported). Although the critical raw materials have recently been mined in Canada, further processing has so far mainly taken place in China, which has a near-monopoly on this technology.

The investment will be used to develop a process to separate and commercialise rare earth oxides from radioactive monazite tailings that would otherwise have been dumped. Monazite is one of the most important ores for the extraction of rare earths. According to the government, the new process could provide additional raw materials for the production of up to 65,000 electric vehicles per year.

Mike Crabtree, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Research Council, said that in addition to profitability, it would also improve the sustainability of the plant, which he told the CBC was the most environmentally sustainable in the world. The funding will also contribute to the development of an automated metal smelting process. This efficiency is important to compete with China, Crabtree said.

The plant is expected to go into operation at the end of this year, CBC writes. The construction of the rare earth plant has already received millions in funding from various government organisations in the recent past.

Setbacks on Canada’s Path to Becoming a Leading Producer of Raw Materials

Canada, which is rich in natural resources, wants to evolve into a leading producer of critical raw materials and has presented a comprehensive strategy to this end. This also includes stricter controls on investments by foreign state-owned companies – primarily China – in the domestic minerals sector. Nevertheless, co-operations with Chinese companies continue to make headlines; in October, for example, Shenghe Resources bought shares in Vital Metals, the owner of Canada’s only rare earth mine, Nechalacho. Like the Saskatchewan Research Council, Vital Metals was also planning to build a processing plant for rare earths, but had to put this project on hold due to a lack of economic viability (we reported).

Photo: iStock/dbvirago

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