Saskatchewan to Build Canada’s First Rare Earth Processing Plant

Saskatchewan to Build Canada’s First Rare Earth Processing Plant
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks during a meeting of Canada's premiers in Saskatoon on July 10, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
Isaac Teo

Saskatchewan has announced that it will build a facility that puts the province at the forefront of an emerging sector of the mining industry in Canada.

The province said Thursday it will fund $31 million to build a rare earth element (REE) processing facility in Saskatchewan, the first-of-its kind in Canada. The plant will be owned and operated by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), Canada’s second-largest research and technology organization.

“Rare earth elements are going to play a major role in powering the 21st century,” Premier Scott Moe said at a news conference.

“They’re used in products such as electric vehicles, renewable power generation, and many of the technologies that are critical to our now modern way of life.”

According to the government’s website, China is currently the largest producer of REE in the world, accounting for “over 70 percent of global annual production, estimated at 120,000 tonnes for 2018.”

“Canada has one of the world’s largest reserves of rare earth elements, estimated at around 12 percent of global reserves, with substantial resource here in Saskatchewan,” Moe said. “Yet rare earths are largely untapped in our nation.”

Global demand for REEs is expected to increase significantly in the next 10 years as demand for all forms of electronics increases.

SRC president and CEO Mike Crabtree believes that the new plant will benefit Canada in several ways.

“This Facility will allow for an environmentally sustainable, reliable, and strategic supply of REEs to be produced outside of China,” Crabtree said.

Moe said the new facility will position Saskatchewan as “a leading developer and export producer of high quality, globally competitive, environmentally sustainable rare earth elements.”

Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison is also optimistic of the benefits the new facility will bring to the province.

“Saskatchewan has a globally recognized mining industry, workforce and culture with local companies already beginning to explore REE deposits both in Saskatchewan, and in surrounding provinces and territories,” Harrison said at the news conference.

“This facility will allow the REE industry to grow and create both immediate and long-term jobs.”

Construction of the new facility is expected to start this fall and be fully operational in late 2022.