The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has successfully designed and manufactured proprietary commercial-scale solvent extraction cells for its under construction Rare Earth Processing Facility. With this, Saskatchewan and Canada are now one of only a handful of jurisdictions in the world with this capability.
The cells, which are being developed with automation algorithms to improve productivity and efficiency, are being manufactured at an SRC-operated fabrication facility in Saskatoon, that celebrated its grand opening today.
"Innovation and technology development are at the heart of what SRC does," Minister Responsible for SRC Jeremy Harrison said. "The design, fabrication and automaton of these solvent extraction cells right here in Saskatchewan is helping to develop an innovative and secure rare earth element supply chain in North America."
SRC is manufacturing 140 of these cells at the fabrication facility by fall 2023. The cells will be the main component in the Rare Earth Processing Facilities Separation Unit. The cells take mixed rare earth chloride, a liquid mixture which includes all 17 rare earth elements, through a process that separates them into individual or grouped rare earth oxides. When separated, rare earth elements are highly valuable and are utilized in a variety of modern technological end-uses including cell phones, electric vehicles and wind turbines, along with more strategic uses including the defense industry.
"As SRC continues to develop its own commercial demonstration Rare Earth Processing Facility, it is developing additional expertise and new processes and technologies, like the solvent extraction cells, that will help position Saskatchewan as a leading-edge rare earth element hub," SRC President and CEO Mike Crabtree said. "The cells have been developed with automation algorithms to improve both productivity and efficiency, while at the same time being a cost-effective option, making them both a benefit to SRC's Facility but also to the growing rare earth industry as a whole."
SRC is constructing North America's first fully integrated, commercial demonstration Rare Earth Processing Facility with hydrometallurgy, separation and metal smelting stages which is expected to be fully operational in late 2024.
SRC is Canada's second largest research and technology organization. With over 350 employees, $277 million in annual revenue and 76 years of experience, SRC provides services and products to its 1,400 clients in 23 countries around the world.