Links of BC Rare Earth Mining Project to U.S. War Economy
Fernand Deschamps -
deposit lies within the unceded territory of the Lheidli
T'enneh. The yellow square marks approximate location of the
deposit. Click to enlarge.
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."
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
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."
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.
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).
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
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."
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
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:
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."
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.
"Rare-Earth Uncertainty" by Peter Grier, published in Air
Force Magazine, December 21, 2017.
This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 2 - February 6, 2022