More upheaval at owner of NWT’s Nechalacho rare earths mine

A view of the Nechalacho mine
A view of the Nechalacho mine. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Nechalacho mine owner Vital Metals is parting company with managing director John Dorward, just months after appointing him.

Dorward succeeded Geoff Atkins, who was abruptly dismissed in August. On Monday, Vital said Dorward had resigned as a director with immediate effect and would work three months’ notice as chief executive.

No explanation was given.

Vital’s chairman, Evan Cranston, left the board last month on the premise that Dorward’s arrival marked “the time for me to hand the reins over to the new team.”



Dorward, appointed in November, just completed a series of high-profile promotional engagements for Vital. He showed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau around the company’s Saskatoon rare earths processing facility, then hosted US ambassador to Canada David L Cohen at a critical minerals summit.

John Dorward, right, with US ambassador to Canada David L Cohen
John Dorward, right, with US ambassador to Canada David L Cohen. David Connelly/Vital Metals

Richard Crookes, Vital’s interim chairman, said in a Monday news release that Dorward had “worked with the board and management team over the past few months to develop a new strategy for the business, which the management team will continue to implement.”

Who that management team now is was not immediately clear. Vital said it would commence an “international search” for a new chief executive.

Late last year, Vital said it was “pivoting strategy” at its NWT rare earths mine, east of Yellowknife, to place more emphasis on expanding operations in a new area of the site.



The company wants to speed up the process of opening Nechalacho’s Tardiff deposit for extraction.

Tardiff is separate from the deposit currently being mined, which is billed as a small-scale “demonstration” of the rare earth minerals available at Nechalacho. By contrast, Vital says Tardiff is a “world class” deposit.

Tardiff “has the potential to anchor what we believe will ultimately be a globally significant producer of rare earth minerals,” Vital stated in a press release just before Christmas.

On Monday, Crookes said the latest round of drilling at Tardiff had begun and the company’s plan to focus on that deposit remained in place.

“I thank John for his leadership during his time in the role and wish him well in his next endeavours,” Crookes said of Dorward.