The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has achieved a milestone by designing and manufacturing Canada’s first proprietary solvent extraction cell technology for the processing of rare earth elements (REEs).
The milestone enables Canada to join the list of a handful of countries with this capability.
SRC has manufactured commercial-scale solvent extraction cells for its rare earth processing facility, which is under construction and expected to become completely operational by the end of next year.
The processing facility Facility will produce high-value REEs and magnet metals using REE minerals.
It is expected to be the first fully integrated, commercial demonstration rare earth processing facility in North America.
The facility will have hydrometallurgy, separation and metal smelting capabilities.
SRC is leveraging automation algorithms to manufacture cells to enhance efficiency and productivity.
The research and technology organisation has opened a fabrication facility in Saskatoon to manufacture the cells. The facility will manufacture 140 cells by late 2023.
Minister Responsible for SRC Jeremy Harrison said: “The design, fabrication and automation of these solvent extraction cells right here in Saskatchewan is helping to develop an innovative and secure rare earth element supply chain in North America.”
The solvent extraction cells will be installed in the separation unit of the rare earth processing facility.
The cells are used to perform the separation of mixed rare earth chloride, a liquid mixture that contains all 17 elements of the rare earths group.
The mixture is separated into individual or grouped rare earth oxides.
The separated rare earth elements have many applications such as the production of electric vehicles, cell phones, and wind turbines. The REEs are also used in the defence industry.
SRC president and CEO Mike Crabtree said: “As SRC continues to develop its own commercial demonstration rare earth processing facility, it is developing additional expertise and new processes and technologies, like the solvent extraction cells, that will help position Saskatchewan as a leading-edge rare earth element hub.
“The cells have been developed with automation algorithms to improve both productivity and efficiency while, at the same time, being a cost-effective option, making them both a benefit to SRC’s facility but also to the growing rare earth industry as a whole.”