PERSPECTIVE: Canadian C of C wakes up to rare earths
By Marilyn Scales
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is touting rare earth elements as a “rare opportunity” for Canada. In its report, Canada’s Rare Earth Deposits Can Offer a Substantial Competitive Advantage, issued on April 26, the C of C lets loose with the hyperbole, saying that it is time for Canada to “start punching above its weight” and to “leverage” what is the “oil of the 21st Century.”
All that exciting prose notwithstanding, the mining industry should be pleased that some of what it does is coming to the attention of a wider audience.
The report notes the current situation with Chinese rare earth production. That country controls 97.3% of the world’s rare earths output. China has not hesitated to raise export duties or quotas on some rare earth elements, a situation that has wide-ranging effects on the electronics, computer, automotive, petroleum, defense, and satellite industries.
“Canada has 1.1 billion pounds 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 president and CEO Perrin Beatty. “We have been blessed with great geology and we have a tremendous opportunity to turn our resource richness into a significant competitive advantage.
“With the Japanese, Americans and Europeans now searching for ways to counter China’s monopoly, Canada is in a very enviable position,” he added.
The “other Canadian mines” Beatty refers to are exploration projects, some of which have advanced to the feasibility stage. Would-be producers are reporting rare earth mineralization in all Canadian provinces and territories with the exception of Prince Edward Island. The potential is here, but miners know that it can take years before an exploration project becomes a producing mine. I hope the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has a lot of its members willing to back mine development.