Today, Monday, February 5, 2024, Natural Resources Canada announced a $4.2 million investment in Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (Ucore) at its processing facility in Kingston.
The investment is expected to last for two years and will support Canada’s participation in the growing market for heavy and light rare earth elements, helping to increase the supply of critical metals for electric motors, which are essential to the development of the domestic electric vehicle value chain, according to a news release from Kingston Economic Development.
The federal government has stated that these critical minerals play a key role in driving a green and digital economy, and demand for them is expected to increase significantly. The investment announced today is expected to help scale up and demonstrate the commercial viability of Ucore’s Canadian-developed patent-pending rare earth separation technology platform.
Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, announced the investment for Ucore on behalf of the Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, at his headquarters in Kingston.
“Canada is a reliable, stable and secure supplier of key minerals and the products that enable them – we have what it takes to thrive in a low-carbon future, from abundant resources to skilled workers. Investments like this are exactly what we need to see to take advantage of the economic opportunities of a low-carbon future while creating good local jobs in communities like Kingston,” stated MP Gerretsen.
The Ucore project, funded through the Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration (CMRDD) program, will support Canada in increasing its supply of metals essential to the development of electric vehicle engines, said Natural Resources Canada, which warned , that this is a “Critical step in the development of the value chain of domestic electric vehicles.”
Instead of sending Canadian concentrates overseas for separation overseas, Ucore’s project will support Canada’s direct participation in the growing market for heavy and light rare earth elements. This funding will also provide employment opportunities for skilled trades and professions, including indigenous communities, according to the release.
Importantly, the investment supports the development of Canadian expertise and introduces new, more sustainable technology to the benefit of other domestic companies, the government said. In addition to electric vehicles, rare earth elements are also needed for wind turbines and various electronics.
Mike Shrider, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Ucore, took some time to chat with MP Gerretsen about the company and what it does. During their conversation, Gerretsen asked about the actual processing that Ucore does, leading to a response from Shrider that really broke down that processing for everyone to understand.
“We have miners all over the world who will send us what is called mixed rare earth oxide or mixed rare earth carbon. It is a chemical concentrate of rare earths [mineral]with It is in high purity form. And it will arrive in… approx [a] one ton sack. It’s going to look like dust, it’s going to look like sand… It’s dry,” he explained.
“We’re going to take that and we’re just going to dissolve it in this tank of acid. And then you have the rare earth ions, which then float in the acid,” Schrider continued before gesturing to a piece of equipment on the floor of the Ucore facility on Justus Drive in Kingston.
“Then what this machine does is you put in an acid that has ions floating around, this machine will separate out the target ions that we’re looking for for that particular step. We store those ions that are now separated in those reservoirs over there, and then those reservoirs become the input for the next step in the process,” Schrider continued.
“So you’d end up with exactly what you’re trying to do [get]. So, for example, if we want dysprosium to come in as an element, it will end up there as dysprosium chloride. And then we can turn that into dysprosium oxide, and that’s what the world wants.”
According to the federal government, Canada is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building a cleaner, more prosperous economy. Creating domestic processing streams and developing expertise in critical minerals is expected to create good jobs, build more competitive value chains and ensure investment and economic growth in communities across the country, the Canadian government said.
More about Ucore on its website: https://ucore.com/.
With files from Cris Vilela and Tori Stafford.
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