Business Bulletins News

IW Business Bulletin – September 23, 2022

Linking a ceremonial chain representing the global rare earth supply chain. PHOTO: Vital Metals/Bill Braden

Saskatoon rare earths facility on display at Saskatchewan Rare Earth Summit

Vital Metals opened phase one of its new rare earth processing facility in Saskatoon on Sept. 20 at the Saskatchewan Rare Earth Summit. The plant is the culmination of three years’ of work, which began with the acquisition of the Cheetah Resources’ Nechalacho Rare Earth Project in the Northwest Territories.

“The Vital Metals and Cheetah Resources teams are intensely proud of what everyone has achieved to date,” said Vital Metals’ CEO Russell Bradford. “The foundations have been laid for a great future for all our stakeholders to develop our rare earth business. What we just demonstrated represents our partners and customers in our supply chain, and we are grateful that you are with us today to help celebrate this milestone in our journey.”

The same day, the Hon. Dan Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan announced $7.5 million in funding for Canada’s first REE processing facilities in Saskatoon. The funding includes:

  • Vital Metals – $5 million for equipment installation and the start of processing bastnaesite concentrate to produce mixed rare earth carbonate at its new plant in Saskatoon.
  • The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) – $2.5 million in interest-free repayable funding to buy equipment for its rare earth processing facility in Saskatoon to produce mixed rare earth carbonite by processing monazite ore

“Saskatchewan is a leader in mining and our government is continuing to make investments to support the establishment of a domestic rare earth supply chain. Canadian companies are not only suppliers of resources, but also processors and producers of value-added products, which will strengthen our economy, create good jobs for Canadians and help us build a cleaner and brighter future,” said Vandal.

Vital Metals is the only North American producer of mixed rare earth carbonate using ore from its own mine. SRC’s $55 million facility will be vertically integrated and include processing, separation and metals stages – the first in North America – and is located near the Vital Metals project.

The Saskatchewan Rare Earth Summit was cosponsored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Critical Minerals Council, Vital Metals, and the Saskatchewan Research Council.

MLT Aikins joins up with Vancouver’s Hakemi & Ridgedale

MLT Aikins announced on Sept. 20 that the long-time prairie-based law firm is joining forces with Vancouver’s Hakemi & Ridgedale to expand MLT Aikins services in British Columbia.

“Hakemi & Ridgedale’s exceptional litigation experience adds to the depth and breadth of our Vancouver presence and to our firm’s overall litigation bench strength,” said Aaron Runge, managing partner of MLT Aikins. “MLT Aikins is a growing firm. We look forward to welcoming the entire Hakemi & Ridgedale team and introducing our full service offering to their impressive group of clients.”

Hakemi & Ridgedale was founded in 2012 and is a commercial litigation boutique firm led by partners Tom Hakemi and Lisa Ridgedale. “We’re pleased to join the MLT Aikins team and bring our litigation experience and client portfolio to a firm that spans across the entire West,” said Hakemi.

The two firms will join officially on December 1, 2022. “By joining MLT Aikins, we’ll be able to better serve clients by benefiting from the combined resources and experience of one of Western Canada’s most recognized law firms,” said Ridgedale.

MLT Aikins has more than 270 lawyers in six offices across Western Canada, and is the 13th largest firm in the country.

Lithium moves

Calgary’s Grounded Lithium has added new personnel to its team. Effective Oct. 1, Lawrence Fisher joins the company as its new vice president, land and regulatory. Fisher is a long-time industry expert, and worked as manager, land and business development at Novus Energy and as vice president, land at Ridgeback Resources Inc. Grounded Lithium has also added consultant Wayne Monnery to act as its technology expert, and Grant Hindbo to establish the company’s supply chain as it moves into commercial operations. Grounded Lithium controls 2.9 million tonnes of lithium in land holdings in southwest Saskatchewan.

Emerald Park-based Prairie Lithium announced on Sept. 21 that it has acquired three more wells set to be abandoned. Once regulatory approvals are made, the company will deepen and test one of the wells to determine levels of productivity. According to the company, “approximately 600m3 of lithium-rich brine is intended to be produced to support Prairie Lithium’s ongoing direct lithium extraction testing and research.”

The same day, Royal Helium Ltd. announced a follow-up on its Climax-1 lithium assays, first reported in August 2022. The company has sampled 81.3 Mg/L lithium brine at Climax-2 on Royal’s Climax helium land block 160 km south of Swift Current. The Climax project is approximately 60,000 hectares in size, one of the largest lithium exploration projects in Western Canada.

“These tests not only continue to show some of the highest lithium assays in western Canada but are also indicating a very large potential pool size which really substantiates our reasoning to develop this lithium play further. As indicated in our previous news release, we have already applied for the mineral rights to all of Climax and are awaiting issuance from the province,” said Andrew Davidson, Royal Helium’s president and CEO.

Saskatchewan companies on Globe and Mail Report on Business’ list of Canada’s Top Growing Companies for 2022

The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business released its annual list of Canada’s Top Growing Companies for 2022, with five Saskatchewan companies making the list:

  • #121 Coconut Software – provider of appointments, queuing, and video banking software
  • #156 Peter Lucas Project Management – recruitment firm for industrial projects
  • #174 7shifts –  team management software designed for restaurants
  • #354 Vendasta – platform to market, sell, bill, fulfill, and deliver digital solutions to small and medium businesses.
  • #371 Ehrenberg Homes Ltd. – Saskatoon homebuilder founded in 1983

“Coconut’s growth is driven by our deep focus on our customers’ needs and the hard work of our passionate employees,” says Katherine Regnier, founder and CEO at Coconut Software. “I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved in the past year. We’ve doubled-down on serving financial institutions products that help them connect with their customers and members. We feel fortunate to be ranked among other innovative Canadian technology companies as a result of our efforts.”

“Vendasta is democratizing how small and medium sized businesses around the world access technology and software to market and run their businesses,” said CEO Brendan King. “When more businesses were pushed online during the pandemic, our partners and our staff made sure they had the support they needed to grow their enterprises.”

Minimum wage rises on October 1

Saskatchewan’s minimum wage will rise to $13 per hour on October 1. The increase was announced in May, with further increases coming as of October 1, 2023 to $14 per hour and then $15 per hour on October 1, 2024.

Get the week’s top business stories Fridays free with the IW Business Bulletin.

Have a story for the IW Business Bulletin? Email us at