Federal investment will see Ucore scale up local processing facility

Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston and the Islands, speaks at a funding announcement at Ucore Rare Metals Inc. in Kingston. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

Today, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, Natural Resources Canada announced a $4.2-million investment in Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (Ucore) at its processing facility in Kingston.

The investment is to be spread over two years and will support Canada’s participation in the growing market of heavy and light rare earth elements, which will help increase the supply of critical electric motor metals that are essential to the development of a domestic electric vehicle value chain, according to a media release from Kingston Economic Development.

The federal government stated that these critical minerals “play a key role in powering the green and digital economy, and demand for them is projected to increase significantly.” The investment announced today will reportedly help scale up and demonstrate the commercial efficacy of Ucore’s patent-pending and Canadian-developed rare earth element separation technology platform.

Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, on behalf of the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, announced the investment to Ucore at it’s Kingston headquarters.

MP Gerretsen (second from left) speaks with those in attendance at a funding announcement for Ucore, including Ucore Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Schrider (third from right) on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

“Canada is a reliable, stable and secure supplier for critical minerals and the products they enable — we have what it takes to thrive in the low-carbon future, from abundant resources to skilled workers. Investments like this one are precisely what we need to see in order to seize the economic opportunities of the low-carbon future while creating good local jobs in communities like Kingston,” MP Gerretsen stated.  

Funded through the Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration (CMRDD) program, Ucore’s project will support Canada in increasing its metals that are essential to the development of electric vehicle motors, according to a release from Natural Resources Canada, which noted that this is a “critical step in the development of a domestic electric vehicle value chain.”

Instead of shipping Canada’s concentrates overseas for foreign separation, Ucore’s project will support Canada’s direct participation in the growing market of heavy and light rare earth elements. According to the release, this funding will also provide employment opportunities for skilled trades and professional occupations, including Indigenous communities.

Importantly, the investment supports the development of Canadian expertise and deploys a new, more sustainable technology to the benefit of other domestic companies, the government stated. In addition to electric vehicles, rare earth elements are also required for wind turbines and a variety of electronics.

Mike Shrider, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Ucore, took some time to chat with MP Gerretsen about the company and what it does. During their conversation, Gerretsen inquired about the actual processing that Ucore undertakes, leading to a response from Shrider that truly broke down that processing for all to understand.

“We have miners around the world that are going to send us what’s called mixed rare earth oxide or mixed rare carbon. That’s a that’s a chemical concentrate of rare earth [mineral]s. It’s in high purity form. And it’ll arrive in… about [a] one ton sack. It’ll look like powder, it’ll look like sand… It’s dry,” he explained.

“We’ll take that, and we’ll just dissolve it in this acid tank. And then you’ve got the rare earth ions that are then floating around in the acid,” Schrider continued before motioning to a piece of equipment on the floor of the Ucore facility on Justus Drive in Kingston.

“Then, what this machine here does is you input the acid that has the ions that are floating around, this machine will separate out the targeted ions that we’re after for that particular step. We store those ions that are segregated now into those tanks over there, and then those tanks become the input for the next step in the process,” Schrider continued.

“So, ultimately, you would end up with exactly what you’re trying to [get]. So, for example, if we want it to get to dysprosium as an element, it’ll eventually end up over there as a dysprosium chloride. And then we can turn that to dysprosium oxide, and that’s what the world wants.”

According to the federal government, Canada is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building a cleaner and more prosperous economy. Creating domestic processing streams and developing expertise in the critical minerals space will reportedly create good jobs, build more competitive value chains, and ensure investment and economic growth in communities across the country, the Government of Canada said. 

Learn more about Ucore on its website: https://ucore.com/.

With files from Cris Vilela and Tori Stafford.

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