Nfld. & Labrador

Search Minerals aims for larger rare earth elements mine in Labrador

The company behind a proposed mining project hopes its project is much larger than originally thought with the capacity for more production for a growing industry.

Company wants to mine elements for permanent magnets, electric cars

Core samples from Search Minerals' Foxtrot deposit are being examined, and it's believed the mine could have a 14-year life. (Search Minerals)

The company behind a proposed mining project in southeast Labrador hopes its project is much larger than originally thought with the capacity for more production for a growing industry.

Search Minerals has been working in Labrador since 2010 and wants to mine for rare earth minerals near the community of St. Lewis in two deposits the company calls Foxtrot and Deep Fox.

Search Minerals is hoping to open the Foxtrot project mine in the Port Hope Simpson rare earth elements district in Labrador. (Search Minerals)

The company's president and CEO Greg Andrews says they have already found more than a decade of mine life in the Foxtrot deposit, but the second deposit could more than double that time. 

"Two resources in the area would extend the mine life from Foxtrot's 14 years to, hopefully, with Deep Fox, if it proves out … the area of 30-plus years and make it a generational-type project," Andrews told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

He said the Foxtrot deposit has a relatively small footprint, while Deep Fox could be considerably larger and hold a higher grade of rare earth elements. 

'Blessed' deposit

The Foxtrot deposit is "blessed" with both light and heavy rare earth minerals like neodymium and dysprosium, Andrews said, often used for making permanent magnets for components in electronics. It's a quickly growing market, and the company is looking to capitalize.

"The growth in the industry that we're focusing on is really the electrification of vehicles, of the wind turbines, that's really been fuelling the growth where we've started to see price increases in those elements," he said.

Andrews said the minerals used for permanent magnets already constitute 85 per cent of the company's revenue, and there's a huge increase forecast in the number of electric vehicles by 2025 and beyond.

Environmental assessment beginning

The view of St. Lewis from the Deep Fox deposit. (Search Minerals)

The proposal to begin work at the Foxtrot site is currently in the environmental assessment process, which the company's CEO said is just beginning. 

The assessment requires consideration of endangered species in the area and consultation with local Indigenous people, and Andrews said the company has an "ongoing relationship" with people in the area.

"We'll be looking at all those things we can to best look to ensure that we leave a very small footprint," he said.

Andrews said Search Minerals hopes to have its first environment assessment submitted by November 2019, and a bankable feasibility study in the next three to four years.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning.