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Parliamentary report sees opportunity for rare earth projects

A report issued by the Canadian parliament’s Standing Committee on Natural Resources paints an optimistic picture for the mining of rare earth elements in Canada.

China currently produces approximately 90 per cent of rare earth elements globally, but its reserves could be depleted within three decades, according to the report.

Canada is thought to have half of the globe’s known rare earth reserves and hopes to secure 20 per cent of global supply by 2018.

Rare earths are used in green technology, defence systems and consumer electronics.

The Canadian Rare Earth Elements Network was established in January in cooperation with Natural Resources Canada to develop and research the sector.

The standing committee’s report estimates global production of rare earths at roughly 130,000 tonnes per year.

World consumption has increased at a rate of 8 to 12 per cent per annum, a trend that experts agree will continue, and may increase.

Though rare earth production is small in comparison to other metals and minerals, the committee noted that they support a manufacturing sector worth between $2 trillion and $4.8 trillion.

Industrial demand for some rare earths is projected to grow by as much as 2,600 per cent by 2025, according to some studies.

Five elements — neodymium (Nd), Europium (Eu), Terbium (Tb), Dysprosium (Dy) and Yttrium (Y) — are highlighted in the report because of their scarcity.

Government officials identified 11 Canadian REE projects in the advanced exploration stage, all of which are Canadian owned. The parliamentary committee estimated that total capital expenditures required for these mines vary significantly – from $106 million to $2.5 billion.

The report identifies Pele Mountain Resources’ Eco Ridge project in Elliot Lake, 160 kilometres west of Sudbury, as one of five Canadian rare earth projects targeting production within the next five years.

The other four are Avalon Rare Metals’ Nechalacho project in the Northwest Territories; Quest Rare Minerals’ Strange Lake project and Matamec’s Zeus-Kipawa joint venture in Quebec; and Orbite Aluminae’s Grande-Vallée property in Quebec.


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