Sask. creates first rare earth ingots in North America

Published Aug. 26, 2022 6:02 p.m. ET

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It’s a first for Saskatchewan, Canada, and even North America.

Friday morning, the first rare earth ingots ever produced on the continent were displayed by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC).

The ingots were a test of the rare earth processing facility being built by the SRC to make the most of the province’s resources.

“We are now one of only four jurisdictions in the entire world with this capability and the only one in North America,” Minister Jeremy Harrison said.

“I am proud to say this was the very first large-scale production of magnet metals in the history of Canada.”

The development is important as the minerals are key to modern devices like smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles.

“Quite simply if rare earths suddenly didn’t exist then our whole modern way of life would no longer be able to exist,” SRC CEO Mike Crabtree said.

“This facility will have the capability to produce enough magnet metals to manufacture 300,000 electric vehicles a year,” Crabtree said.

He said they were in Phase 1 of development and planned to be fully operational by the fall of 2024.

“We’ll be looking to take in about 3,000 tonnes of monazite ore process that through to about 1,500 tonnes of rare earths and from that rare earths, which are used in a whole variety of electronics, defence, modern technologies, there are about 300 tonnes of that that can be converted to the ingots.”

“These metals will play a really important role in our energy security as our world’s energy mix continues to evolve,” Harrison said.

He said it put Saskatchewan in a good position.

“It has importance beyond our borders,” Harrison said. “Part of that is diversifying the supply chain away from China but also the fact that we’re going to be able to put more rare earths on the market is significant given the massively increased demand.”

He said there were delegations from around the world that will be attracted to what Saskatchewan has to offer.

Crabtree explained that ore itself may be worth $5,000 - $10,000 a tonne, but the metal blocks were worth $200,000 a tonne.

“So the ability to within the province to add that sort of value, from $10,000 a tonne to $200,000 a tonne, represents a very significant economic development for the province.”

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