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Rare earth element mine pushing towards environmental assessment

Plans for mine near Strange Lake, Labrador taking longer than expected but proponent optimistic

A map showing proposed location of Strange Lake mine

The proposed mine is located on the border and a road to transport product would cut across caribou migration routes. (questrareminerals.com)

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It's still a long way off but Quest Rare Earth's vision for a mine at Strange Lake, on the Labrador-Quebec border, is inching closer to reality.

The company hopes to harvest rare earth elements, which are used in everything from electronics to magnets to cancer drugs.

President Dirk Naumann said the company will submit documentation for an environmental impact assessment by the end of September.

"The environmental assessment is not easy. We are dealing with a large number of jurisdictions," Naumann said. "The co-ordination is taking more time and more effort than we expected."

Nauman admitted there are several hurdles to conquer before mining can start — an environmental impact assessment is just the first.

Dirk Naumann, President Quest Rare Earth

Dirk Naumann, President Quest Rare Earth, said approval for the mine has to come from two provinces. (Questrareminerals.com)

The mine site, which would straddle a northern segment of the Quebec-Labrador border, could affect Indigenous groups in both provinces.

"We have to negotiate and finalize impacts and benefits agreements on the Quebec side and on the Labrador side, and we are fully prepared to do so. We believe it makes sense and that the Aboriginal groups have the right to be compensated for the impact."

Quest's plan includes construction of a road from the mine site 165 kilometres east to Anaktalak Bay for shipping. It would cut across caribou migratory paths, something Naumann says Quest is ready to deal with despite concern that caribou numbers are dropping.

"It's very dramatic," Naumann said of the decline in George River caribou.

"Whenever there are caribou in the area, we will stop shipping, we will stop all the traffic and let the caribou migrate."

On top of environmental and bureaucratic challenges, Naumann conceded another: market prospects.

"The economy around the globe [as far as] mining and resources is concerned, faces lots of difficulty."

A preliminary economic assessment prepared for Quest back in 2014 said the environmental impact assessment process will take at least two years. Still, Naumann believes the project, which would employ between 350 to 400 people on site and another 350 at a processing facility in Quebec, is a good one.

According to the company's website, the project life of the mine is 30 years, with revenue estimates of $758 million annually.

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