Shipment company

‘Major day for the North’: Nechalacho’s first shipment of rare minerals leaves Hay River

Tuesday was an exciting day for Cheetah Resources and its Nechalacho mine. Their first shipment of rare earth concentrate left Hay River and is heading for Saskatoon.

Once there, it will be processed into mixed rare-earth carbonate and then shipped to Norway for further processing.

A revolutionary day not only for the north but also for the rest of the country. It is the first rare earth mine in Canada and only the second in North America.

“We are a player in a big world,” said Tom Hoefer, CEO of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

“Just as diamonds catapulted us into the global diamond realm, this will push us far into the global recognition of rare earths,” he said.

Hoefer is looking forward to the expansion of the mine, which he praised for using an Indigenous mining company from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and using environmentally responsible processing methods.

The Nechalacho mine uses no water or chemicals in the mining and sorting process, which is not a first in mining, but a first in rare earth mining.

“They basically separate quartz, which is a benign mineral, from their valuable mineral,” Hoefer said. “That equates to a pretty clean operation.”

Cheetah Resources also orders its wooden pallets and core boxes from Deninu Kųę́ First Nation in Fort Resolution.

An important day for Hay River

David Connelly, vice president of strategy and corporate affairs at Cheetah Resources, said Hay River has always been the transportation hub for the North, but over the past decade the amount of freight passing through Hay River has declined quite significantly.

Connelly said that as a northerner, he hoped the export of rare earth concentrates from the Northwest Territories would benefit Hay River.

“Over the next three years, we plan to ship 5,000 tonnes of concentrate each year,” Connelly said. “I hope this is a revitalization of Hay River in its glory days as a transportation hub for the North.”

Nechalacho used two different methods for this shipment, first bringing it to Hay River by sea and then shipping it south by truck.

Hay River will also serve as a staging point where concentrate is stored once it arrives from the mine and awaits shipment by truck or rail.

Connelly said he was delighted to share that a client has already been secured for this particular shipment of rare earth minerals.

Once further processing is completed in Norway, it will travel to Germany where it will be used in electric vehicles.

“That’s very important because it’s a long value chain, and that means there’s a secure customer for the product all the way to EV transmissions in Europe,” Connelly said. “It will help us reduce carbon emissions from transport.