Canada's 1st rare earth mining project starts production

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A snapshot from the Nechalacho rare earths mine demonstration project back in April, before production began.  (Liny Lamberink/CBC North - image credit)
A snapshot from the Nechalacho rare earths mine demonstration project back in April, before production began. (Liny Lamberink/CBC North - image credit)

Production has started at Canada's first rare earth mining project, located about 100 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife.

The Nechalacho rare earth elements mine says blasting and mining activities have ramped up, and that the first ore was mined on June 29.

Cheetah Resources operates the project, and owns the resources near the surface of the rare earth deposit. It's a subsidiary of Australian company Vital Metals.

"We will continue to ramp up crushing and ore sorting with full production rates expected to be achieved in July. Beneficiated material will be stockpiled for transport to our extraction plant in Saskatoon," said Geoff Atkins, Vital Metals' managing director, in a news release.

End-products for technology manufacturing

The mine is now in the midst of a smaller-scale three-year demonstration project. Phase two of the project will involve mining a much larger deposit.

Nechalacho is unique for a few reasons.

It's Canada's only rare earth elements mining project, aiming to produce end-products that will ultimately be used in technology manufacturing. According to Natural Resources Canada, the most important use for rare earth elements is making magnets that can be used in cell phones, computers, wind turbines and electric vehicles.

It's also the first in Canada to contract an Indigenous business to extract materials on their own territory.

Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction, partially owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, signed the agreement early last year.

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