The first barge shipment of ore from the NWT’s and Canada’s first rare earths mine arrived in Hay River at the Marine Transport Service Terminal over the Oct. 16 to 18 weekend.

Bags of ore mined at the Nechalacho site on the north shore of the East Arm were in the process of being unloaded to CN Rail and to trucks for shipment south Oct. 18.

Five hundred shipment bags marked with the Cheetah Resources emblem on the side sat on the MV Vic Ingraham in the chilly late autumn Hay River weather.

“There is is approximately one tonne of ore per bag so 500 tonnes total, basically,” Ray Anguelov, Cheetah’s operations manager explained.

On Oct. 14, two barges guided by the MV Vic Ingraham sailed into Yellowknife Bay after a seven-hour, 110-kilometre trip from the Nechalacho site to drop off mining equipment.

From there, on Oct. 15, the barge returned to the Nechalacho site to pick up the 500 megabags of sorted rare earth ore for transfer to Hay River.

Mining is expected to resume in the summer of 2022.

Vital Metals, Cheetah’s parent company, is currently constructing a processing plant in Saskatoon, Sask. which will receive sorted rare earths rock from Hay River for further refinement.

The company is working on doubling capacity at that plant, buoyed by the recent announcement of a massive increase in expected business from an existing client: a 50-per-cent increase to an order from Norway-based REEtec AS.

The volume of the five-year order, a minimum of 750 tonnes of neodymium/praseodymium (NdPr), used in the production of strong rare earth magnets, within 2,000 tonnes, per year, of total rare earth oxides (TREO), would represent three-quarters of all production at that Saskatoon plant.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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