Vital Metals starts commissioning at Saskatchewan rare earth extraction plant

Canada’s first rare earths producer, Vital Metals (ASX: VML l OTCQB: VTMXF), announced Friday it has begun feeding ore into a dense media separation (DMS) plant as part of commissioning of its rare earth extraction facility in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Vital will commission the Saskatoon facility incrementally over the coming months with plans to produce a 2.5t rare earth carbonate sample for offtake partner REEtec as the next step of product qualification.

Vital is processing ore from the company’s Nechalacho operation in Canada’s Northwest Territories, where mining commenced in mid-2021.

“This is an exciting step for the company as we continue our transition from rare earth developer to operator,” Vital Metals managing director Geoff Atkins said in a media statement.

“We have been a rare earth miner for more than 12 months and now we can commence production of rare earth carbonate,” he said. “We are excited to have reached this milestone at Saskatoon despite the challenges surrounding supply chains and logistics across the world.

“We are targeting to produce 2.5t of carbonate for REEtec as an important step of our production qualification process before we commence ramping up our volume,” Atkins said.

“We are forecasting for this to occur in October 2022.”

Over the coming months, Vital said it will incrementally commission the calcination, leaching and purification and precipitation equipment at the plant, adding this approach will focus on producing product at specification while minimising off-spec production, and wastage.

Vital’s Saskatoon plant will have initial throughput capacity of 1,000 tonnes per year of rare earth oxide (REO) excluding cerium, which is equivalent to ~470t NdPr/year.

The facility is adjacent to a rare earth processing plant under construction by Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) as part of a rare earths hub.

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