Rare earth minerals could help fight climate change, but mining raises environmental concerns: expert News Jani
Rare-earth minerals could help fight climate change, but mining raises environmental concerns: expert
While rare earth minerals are now touted as an important part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, there are environmental concerns about extracting these minerals from the ground, says an expert on environmental concerns related to mining.
Demand is growing for rare earth elements – a group of metals and minerals including lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt and copper used in batteries for everything from cars to smartphones.
As part of Canada’s key minerals strategy announced last month, rare earth elements are being prioritized for exploration, production and processing investments.
Some of Canada’s experience of mining things like gold or potash is now being used to prospect for rare earth minerals, and Saskatchewan is playing a role through Vital Metals’ Saskatoon rare earth processing facility producing the next. Months.
The facility will process rare earth elements from the Nichalachu rare earth mine in the Northwest Territories before sending the refined product to another facility in Norway.
But Quebec-based Canada Research Chair Integration of Environment into the Mine Lifecycle says that while Canada has the technology to mine these minerals, it differs from mining like gold.
“We definitely need to produce more of these minerals, and ideally we want to produce them responsibly,” Demers said in an interview with CBC Saskatchewan. morning edition.
“They are very important because so far they have mainly been mined in China and other countries and the demand for making all these batteries to meet climate change adaptation commitments has gotten out of hand. It was pretty low.”
Saskatoon morning16:14Rare earth element processing is coming to Saskatoon.
In addition to the environmental impact of the mine itself and the waste it produces, elements such as lithium or strontium can be released into the environment.
“She [are] Rare earths that are already encased in rock and once exposed to the atmosphere … can change shape and go into a soluble form and into the atmosphere,” Demers said.
“These are elements that we haven’t seen when mining base metals or gold.”
Facility focuses on Sask’s Mining Expertise: Manager
At the Saskatoon Vital Metals Processing Plant, general manager Vincent Linais said the equipment is being assembled and the plant will be up and running in a few months.
The plant processes ores and minerals extracted from the Nechalacho mine into a concentrate.
The product is then sent to another plant in Norway for the next step, where the rare earth elements are separated.
If the material will be mined in the Northwest Territories, Saskatoon was chosen as the site for the plant because of the province’s mining expertise, skilled workforce and the support of a reliable transportation system, Linnes said.
“We have all the facilities in place to dispose of the waste, find suitable contractors to build the facility, and maintain the facility,” he said.
“If everything goes well and demand is very strong … there’s a very good chance we’ll expand it.”
Once operational, the facility is expected to employ 50 to 60 people.
Demers believes that the precautions now being taken and the expertise in Canada mean that we have a better idea of the impact of rare earth element mining and efforts are already underway to reduce it.
“So I’m confident that we can mitigate that impact from the start and not afterwards like we did with the gold tailings and all that many years ago.”
Demers said rare earth elements are needed as a transition from society to where energy comes from.
“What I hope is that we do this responsibly… that we prevent or minimize most impacts and minimize those impacts on both the environment and communities, and that all development is conducted in the best way for everyone,” said you.