Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online
REGINA – Rare earth elements are critical to many modern technologies, and especially to the batteries used for electric vehicles. On June 23, the Government of Saskatchewan announced an additional $20 million in funding for the Saskatchewan Research Council’s (SRC) Rare Earth Processing Facility. The funding will allow the facility to expand its capabilities and move further down the rare earth element (REE) value chain with the addition of a metals unit that will produce rare earth metals, a key ingredient used to manufacture permanent magnets, according to a government release. The funding will also address increased costs in the project that have arisen over the past two years as a result of various global supply chain challenges.
The facility will be the first-of-its-kind in North America and is already beginning to establish a vertically integrated REE supply chain in Saskatchewan, forming an industry model for future commercial REE resource expansion in the province, according to the Ministry of Trade and Export Development.
“The SRC Rare Earth Processing Facility delivers on a key element of the 2030 Growth Plan, with the planned expansion into metals production exceeding our original objective,” Minister Responsible for SRC Jeremy Harrison said. “Our government is proud to provide our continued support to a facility that is enhancing domestic production to reduce reliance on foreign imports and supporting economic growth in this burgeoning sector.”
SRC has already made significant progress on the facility with the detailed engineering, design and procurement for the first stage, a Monazite Processing Unit (MPU), wrapping up in the fall. Procurement for the second stage, the Separation Unit and Metals Unit, will begin shortly after. In addition, SRC received the first shipment of monazite concentrate, secured from Brazil in late May, with the remainder set to arrive in early July. The monazite concentrate will be used as the feedstock for SRC’s MPU, once operational.
“SRC is proud to be a world leader in rare earth element processing and separation technologies which will play an important part in the innovative solutions needed to reach net-zero,” SRC President and CEO Mike Crabtree said. “This additional funding will support SRC’s ability to continue advancing the production of rare earth elements, as well as our capacity to move further down the value chain as we build a rare earth hub in Saskatchewan.”
The newly expanded and fully integrated three-stage Rare Earth Processing Facility will be producing REE products for sale on the international markets in 2024, including individual rare earth oxides and didymium metals.
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