Canada and United States sign MOU to collaborate on rare earth supply chain creation
31 December 2019
Industry bulletin from Avalon Advanced Materials: As reported in The Globe and Mail on December 27, Canada and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding to reduce their reliance on China for rare earth minerals that are critical to high-tech and military products, such as smartphones, electric cars and weapons guidance systems. Officials in both countries have been working since August to develop an action plan for specialty mineral projects and strategic investments in North American processing facilities, as well as greater research and development in extraction of rare earth materials.
The memorandum was signed on December 19 and aims to secure “resilient supply chains for critical energy minerals,” for key sectors, including aerospace, defence and clean technology, according to a statement by Canada’s Natural Resources ministry and the U.S. Department of Energy.
China continues to dominate global rare earth supply chains. “For decades, China has pursued a strategy to control global critical mineral production and processing. This strategy has led to China being the leading producer of minerals vital to the modern economy,” explains Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC).
Avalon Advanced Materials is a member of MAC and will be supporting its efforts in setting up a task force to work with Ottawa and Washington. The initial focus is to identify critical mineral projects and study how to overcome some of the research and development challenges to drive down costs and be competitive with China.
There are numerous opportunities emerging in North America through innovative mineral processing technologies to create a domestic rare earth supply chain and reduce reliance on China. In October 2019, Avalon signed a binding Letter of Intent with Coal Strategy Advisors, LLC (CSA) to earn up to a 50% interest in the Will Scarlett Rare Earths Recovery Project located near Marion, Illinois. Will Scarlett is a closed coal mine site where recent geochemical sampling has found elevated levels of rare earths and other metallic elements such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese and zinc in acid mine drainage (AMD) and the precipitates from historical lime treatment of the AMD.
Avalon and CSA are now looking at implementing a very promising new extraction technology to recover rare earths from the precipitates at a low cost and with no significant environmental impacts. Comments Avalon President and CEO Donald Bubar, “This technology also offers a very rapid path to
initial production compared to recovery from a hard rock rare earths deposit. With the rare earths having been leached into solution through acid mine drainage, mother nature has already done most of the work for us!”