Canada will have rare earth processing plant in operation by the end of 2022 as the province of Saskatchewan has committed C$31 million (about $24m) to build the facility, which aims at boosting domestic supply of the key ingredients for military weapons, electric vehicles and smartphones.
The process of turning rare earth elements (REE) ore into individual products is done in two main stages. The first is the concentration of ore to mixed REE Carbonate. The second is the more complex separation stage that converts the mixed REE Carbonate to commercial pure-grade REEs. The facility, owned and operated by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), will address both stages of REE processing.
The province said it would be the first of its kind in Canada, adding that it is expected to be an industry model for future commercial rare earth expansion.
“Saskatchewan’s new Rare Earth Processing Facility will be a catalyst to stimulate the resource sector in the province and across Canada, providing the early-stage supply chain needed to generate cash-flow, investment and industrial growth of the sector,” Premier Scott Moe said in the statement.
Setting an independent domestic rare earth and critical minerals supply chain has become a priority for Canada and, particularly, the United States. Both currently rely on China, which accounts for 70% of global production.
The Asian giant also controls more than 60% of a $14 billion global market for materials used in magnets and motors that power phones, wind turbines, electric vehicles and military devices.
The 69,000 square foot plant will be located in north Saskatoon and will employ about two-dozen people. The facility is expected to be fully operational in late 2022 with construction beginning this fall.