The company behind a planned rare-earth minerals mine east of Yellowknife has taken a step closer to constructing an extraction plant in Saskatchewan.
Cheetah Resources, which hopes to begin operations at the Nechalacho site on Thor Lake next year, said last week it had signed a term sheet to begin negotiations toward establishing a plant in Saskatoon.
A term sheet is an agreement outlining the terms and conditions under which an investment is to be made. The facility is expected to cost around $5 million to build.
Cheetah says it will now negotiate with the Saskatchewan Research Council the full detail of an agreement to build and operate the plant.
The company ultimately envisages mining rare earths in the NWT, transporting the raw material to Saskatoon, and turning that into a rare-earth carbonate at its extraction plant.
The carbonate would then head next door to a separate processing plant funded by Saskatchewan’s provincial government, which is already under construction in north Saskatoon.
Building the extraction plant is vital to establishing that full supply chain.
In a news release, Cheetah’s Geoff Atkins said building the plant next to the provincially backed processing facility would, when Nechalacho opens, make the company a “cornerstone of the North America critical minerals strategy.”
If Nechalacho begins operations in 2021 as expected, it will do so as a small-scale “demonstration” mine intended to offer a proof of concept to customers.
Cheetah intends to subsequently scale up operations according to demand.
For the year to September 1, Cheetah says it employed 14 people on its Nechalacho project either in Yellowknife or at the site, of which 12 were northerners and nine Indigenous.