Canada eyes rare earths in black shale deposits

April 30, 2012

It has been estimated that there are 491 kt (1.1 billion lbs) of rare earths locked in the black shale deposits of Alberta, Canada.

A new technology, called bioheap leaching, could help unlock the rare earth elements and thus thrust Canada into a powerful and influential role on the global stage when it comes to rare earths.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is behind the effort to promote Canadian rare earth projects and deposits, suggesting Canada’s REE resources could give the nation increased “political leverage and influence” in the search for rare earths outside of China.

In the report “Canadian Rare Earth Deposits Can Offer a Substantial Competitive Advance,” the Canadian Chamber advocates an “opportunity for Canada to start punching above its weight in leveraging what is often referred to as the ‘oil of the 21st Century.’”

“Canada has 491 kt (1.1 billion lbs) of rare earths locked in black shale deposits (the Alberta Black Shale Project) worth an estimated $206 billion. In addition, several other Canadian mines across the country show great potential,” said Chamber chief executive officer Perrin Beatty.

“We have been blessed with great geology and we have a tremendous opportunity to turn out resource richness into a significant competitive advantage,” he added. “With the Japanese, Americans and Europeans now searching for ways to counter China’s monopoly, Canada is in a very enviable position.”

The rare earths are locked in the Alberta Black Shale project and previously were not recoverable unless large amounts of cyanide and arsenic were used to liquefy the ores- “a process that is considered dangerous and illegal in many parts of the world.”

“Now, a new, more cost-effective and environmentally friendly technology that uses water, air and microbes (a technique known as bioheap leaching) can be used to release the rare earths from the black shale deposits,” the report said.

The Chamber suggested several other Canadian mines show great potential including Avalon Rare Metals Nechalacho REE project in the Northwest Territories, Great Western Minerals Hoidas Lake Project in northern Saskatchewan, Midland Exploration's exploration project in Ytterby, Pele Mountain Resources' Eco Ridge Mine Uranium and Rare Earth Elements Project in Elliot Lake, Ontario, and Matamec Exploration's Zeus property in the Temiscamingue region of Quebec.

Other rare earth projects cited in the report include Quest Rare Earth Mineral's rare earth projects in Strange Lake and Misery Lake areas of northeastern Quebec, Cache Exploration's exploration of Welsford rare earth properties in New Brunswick and the Cross Hills and Louil Hills rare earth properties in Newfoundland, Kirrin Resources' exploration projects in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, and Forum Uranium's North Thelon Project in Nunavut.



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