Rare Earth Elements (REE) also represent an opportunity for Canada to enter an emerging and globally strategic market. However, the metallurgy for Canadian ores containing REE involves a complex sequence of individual separation, refinement, alloying and formation stages before they can be used in the production of permanent magnets, consumer electronics and other high value-added high-tech products. According to the Technology Metal Research Group (2015) there are 58 rare-earth mineral resources, associated with 53 advanced rare-earth projects and 49 companies, located in 35 regions within 16 countries. 19 of them are located in Canada. Canada’s niche is its heavy REE deposits for which there is high demand, with shortages anticipated in the short-term. Therefore Canada has an opportunity to play a leading role in supplying REE by potentially fulfilling 20 per cent of global demand.
Canada has an opportunity to become a substantial producer of REE, which have specific properties that make them critical inputs to important sectors including defence, aerospace, automotive and clean energy. They are used in many technologies and products Canadians depend on, including batteries, magnets, LED (light emitting diodes), medical imaging systems, global positioning systems, smart phones and other electronics.
Furthermore, Canadian exploration companies are currently working on advanced projects that have significant concentrations of heavy REE, which are in the shortest supply but the highest demand globally, demonstrating the potential for Canada to become a significant player in this global market. However, in order to get these resources to market and realize this opportunity, technological advancements are required, either through new development or by adapting existing technologies to the Canadian environment.