Nechalacho, located southwest of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, has begun delivering its first concentrated minerals. The first rare earths mine in the country, Nechalacho is expected to help “Canada and its allies break free of the rare earths supply chain from China,” says David Connelly, president of Cheetah Resources, which owns the mine. Discovered in 1983, the deposit contains 15 different elements, including ytterbium, lanthanum and gadolinium, which are essential materials, particularly in the manufacture of electric vehicles. Currently, nearly 60% of these minerals are mined in China.


Minerals extracted from the Nechalacho subsoil are reduced to the size of gravel before passing under a sensor to isolate the white quartz from other heavier and denser elements. The concentrated product is then sent to Saskatoon where it is refined in a plant built by Cheetah’s Vital Metals, before being sold to a customer in Norway who will separate the elements before turning them into metal bars. The first shipments travelling by barge to Hay River and then by train to Saskatoon are expected to arrive at the plant in June.

Connelly hopes to produce 25,000 tonnes of concentrate annually by 2025. The president believes the deposit should provide supply for several decades.

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