Links of BC Rare Earth Mining Project to U.S. War Economy

Wicheeda deposit lies within the unceded territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. The yellow square marks approximate location of the deposit. Click to enlarge.

The Wicheeda rare earth element (REE) property in central British Columbia is claimed by mining company Defense Metals Corporation. Defense Metals promoted the property saying, "The plan at Wicheeda is to produce the rare earths involved in defence applications; nyodemium, praseodymium, cerium and lanthanum." They note, "While the market share for light rare earth oxides (LREO) use in defence applications is small, its significance is that some rare earth minerals are essential in military equipment such as jet engines, missile guidance systems, anti-missile defence systems, satellites and lasers."

Registered on the Canadian, U.S. and German stock exchanges, Defense Metals reports on its website that one of its "strategic advisors" is Karl T. Wagner, "a former member of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s Senior Intelligence Service (SIS), having served as a CIA senior leader and a Directorate of Operations (DO) expert manager, with 29 years of worldwide experience, including service in Latin America, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. [...] His last position at the CIA was Chief of Counter-Intelligence (CI) Operations. He also served as Executive Assistant to CIA's Executive Director, Chief of the CIA's Special Middle East Task Force and in leadership positions in CIA stations overseas including a large station in North Africa, multiple war zones in the Middle East and South Asia, and high CI threat stations in Latin America and East Asia."

Another Defense Metals "strategic advisor" is Andrew Leland, a retired "U.S. Army Air Defense Officer focussed on Short Range Air Defense for eight years, [who] has participated in multiple combat tours supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom operations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iraq," and who left the service in 2006. Leland is presently a systems engineer, 3D integrated modeling specialist, at Lockeed Martin.

In one of the promotional videos on Defense Metals' website, it boasts that its Wicheeda deposit is "one of the highest-grade road-accessible deposits of rare earth elements in North America" and is located close to Prince George, "a key mining area with a trained workforce." The deposit, it says, "has the potential to reduce the existing reliance on Chinese sources" as part of "North America's safe alternative for military component production."

The Wicheeda property is located on unceded land about 80 kilometres northeast of Prince George. The promo material says the more than 2,000 hectare property "is readily accessible by all-weather gravel roads and is near infrastructure, including hydroelectric power transmission lines, a major gas pipeline, the CN railway and major highways."

The projected mine would indicate mineral resources close to 5 million tonnes averaging three per cent of total rare earth oxides (TREO) and inferred mineral resources of 29 million tonnes averaging close to two per cent TREO. Through open-pit mining, Defense Metals aims to produce an average of 25,000 tonnes of rare earth oxides (REO) per year, approximately 10 per cent of the world's current production.

The company also reported in January 2021 that 70 per cent of the estimated cost for the X-Ray transmission (XRT) test-work to determine the REE's presence in the mined ore will be done by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) lab facilities, and is to be covered by funding to the company and the SRC from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

The NRC IRAP program is a Government of Canada funded program mandated to provide financial support for technology innovation. For example, it provides grants of up to $10 million that are typically focussed on research and development, of new innovative products, creating original software, etc. IRAP offers non-repayable financial assistance covering 80 per cent of salaries and 50 per cent of contractor costs.

This is clearly a straightforward pay-the-rich scheme. Never a word is spoken of how the uses to which these elements are put benefit the people, beginning with the Indigenous peoples on whose lands it is found, the Canadian people and the peoples of the world. Not a word about how the natural environment is being safeguarded for present and future generations. Canadians of course never gave approval for natural resources to be used in war production, which is carried out under the guise of high ideals.

Commenting on the SRC/NRC investment, Defense Metals CEO Craig Taylor said at the time, "We are [the] logical feed, for our concentrate to be processed at their production facility. Transporting from Prince George to Saskatchewan is hassle-free, [with] no borders to cross."

In its January 17 news release, Defense Metals Corp. says that it "is a mineral exploration company focussed on the acquisition of mineral deposits containing metals and elements commonly used in the electric power market, defence industry, national security sector and in the production of green energy technologies, such as rare earths magnets used in wind turbines and in permanent magnet motors for electric vehicles."

An article published in the U.S. Air Force Magazine titled "Rare-Earth Uncertainty," says "The Department of Defense is not a major user of rare-earth elements, relatively speaking. Defense accounts for about five per cent of U.S. consumption, according to a Congressional Research Service background report on the subject. But REEs are integral to a vast array of Pentagon weapons and general equipment."

The author of the article, Peter Grier, editor of The Christian Science Monitor based in Washington, DC, argues in favour of the United States getting the upper hand on the production of REE in its rivalry with China. He writes, "Chinese leaders, citing domestic needs and environmental effects, have in the past restricted the export of rare-earth supplies through such means as licences, taxes, and out-and-out quotas. For instance, in July 2010 China announced it would reduce its exports of rare earths for the second half of the year by 70 per cent over the previous year's levels."

Grier goes on giving examples of why the production of REE and other critical minerals is so vital to the U.S. war economy:

"The generators that produce electrical power for aircraft all contain samarium-cobalt magnets. The stealth technology that produces white noise to help conceal the sound of helicopter rotor blades uses such magnets as well. F-22 tail fins and rudders move due to motors with powerful, miniature REE magnets. Electronic warfare jamming devices use rare-earth materials, as do laser targeting systems and nascent laser weapons.

"Each stealthy F-35 strike fighter requires 920 pounds of rare-earth material, according to DOD [U.S. Department of Defense]. Each Arleigh Burke DDG-51 destroyer requires 5,200 pounds. An SSN-774 Virginia-class submarine needs 9,200 pounds."[1]

Defense Metals CEO Taylor sees the significance of the Wicheeda resource to military applications, adding, "We're seeing investment from the DOD and DOE [U.S. Department of Energy], but not enough at this point."

Enter Canada to help bridge the gap. It is a Canada which pays the rich and has integrated its economy into the U.S. war economy. This Canada does not bode well for the future. The direction given to the economy does not show that future developments will be favourable to the Indigenous Peoples who are the guardians of their unceded territories in British Columbia or to the Canadian people whose deepest desire is for the social and natural environment to be humanized, not dedicated to wars of aggression and the enrichment of a few people.


1. "Rare-Earth Uncertainty" by Peter Grier, published in Air Force Magazine, December 21, 2017.

(With files from Natural Resources Canada, Northern Miner,, Defense Metal, Air Force Magazine, LinkedIn. Photos: TML, Lheidli T'enneh)

This article was published in

Volume 52 Number 2 - February 6, 2022

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