SASKATOON — Vital Metals assured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday that the extraction and processing of rare earth minerals have less impact on the environment than other forms of mining as Canada aims to capitalize on the economic growth of the industry.
Vital Metals Managing Director John Dorward gave Trudeau and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark a tour of the REM processing plant on Monday, Jan. 16, as part of the prime minister’s three-day visit to the province.
Trudeau said how environmentally friendly the mining and processing of REMs from the Northwest Territories to Saskatoon was one of the questions that he asked Dorward, who then explained every step done to produce the element that is used in almost all gadgets today.
“What happens in this process is the [Nechalacho] mine in the Northwest Territories does an initial processing, but there are no tailing ponds and no significant amounts of waste up at that mine. Much of that is brought down here to Saskatoon, that was chosen partially because there is such a strong ecosystem of support for the mining industry here,” said Trudeau.
“There are highly professional waste disposal services that ensure the environmental impacts of this type of mining and processing of these essential rare earth minerals, rare earth elements, is done in an environmentally responsible way as much as possible and certainly among the best in the world.”
He added that there had been concerns over the years of the environmental impact of extracting, processing, and developing rare earth elements in other parts of the world.
“[They] don't hit the kinds of environmental standards and protection of nature that I think Canadians would expect, but I mean people around the world will expect environmental responsibility is top of mind,” said Trudeau.
“One of the things that we've consistently heard, whether I'm talking to companies like Volkswagen or big American companies looking to invest in Canada, they want to know that the processes are as green as possible. That means clean energy going in."
Trudeau said Canada is at about 80 per cent in using renewable energy in its mix.
“Knowing that [green] energy is used in these places, the processes are clean, and the final product is [not only] good for consumers but also good for the planet. I know that's something shared by all the workers here, making sure they're leaving a world for their kids but also a protected environment, and that's where Canada can and will continue to lead,” said Trudeau.
“The world wants clean technology, and Canada has the resources, the expertise, and the skilled workers to meet that demand. By developing and processing our critical minerals here in Canada – the first step in the clean technology supply chain – we can create good middle-class jobs, all while keeping our air clean for generations to come.”
Trudeau added that moving toward significant technological advances means access to rare earth elements would benefit the country, from job creation to economic growth.
“That’s why the world is looking to Canada because Canada has incredible amounts of critical minerals and rare earth elements that the world needs. People want to see these are done in partnership and respect with Indigenous people,” he said.