Lithium, Helium and Canola are the Talk of the Town

In the last two weeks, Saskatchewan has seen four major announcements in sectors that show major potential for growth in the province.

Lithium: Prairie Lithium

On May 4, 2021, Prairie Lithium Ltd. announced its acquisition of 188,000 acres of subsurface mineral permits in Saskatchewan. The Emerald Park-based company now has total mineral holdings of over 220,000 acres, and is the largest active lithium brine developer in Saskatchewan, and one of the largest active lithium brine developers in Canada. The company’s initial Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) proof of process pilot project proved successful in 2020. Prairie Lithium installed its proprietary system in an oil and gas field and was able to extract lithium that was eventually converted to lithium carbonate – one of the two key compounds in lithium ion batteries. Lithium ion batteries are in demand globally, and demand far exceeds supply – giving Saskatchewan an opportunity to supply the world with what it wants.

Helium: North American Helium Inc.

On April 27, 2021, North American Helium Inc. announced that Saskatchewan is now home to Canada’s largest helium purification facility. The facility, located in the southwest of the province, is expected to produce more than 50 million cubic feet per year of commercial helium. Helium is not only for balloons. It’s also used in medical research, semiconductor manufacturing, space exploration, fibre optics, and nuclear power generation.

“We are very excited to start up our second helium plant in Saskatchewan ahead of schedule and anticipate running a significant helium exploration and development program into the future,” NAH President and Chief Operating Officer Marlon McDougall said on April 27.

There are now nine active helium wells in Saskatchewan, with another 24 in drilling stages according to the Government of Saskatchewan. 

Canola: Cargill and Viterra

On April 22, 2021, Cargill announced plans for a new canola processing facility in Regina. Canola, an agricultural staple on the prairies, is being embraced as a source for plant protein with demand growing around the world. Cargill’s planned project will be similar to its Camrose, Alta. processor, with construction in Regina starting in early 2022. The company plans to have the Regina canola facility online in early 2024 with an annual production capacity of 1 million metric tons.

“We are confident in the continued growth and competitiveness of the canola processing industry and look forward to helping farmers access increasing market demand,” said Jeff Vassart, President of Cargill Canada on April 22. “Through these projects, we’re committed to providing a better, more efficient customer experience across our network, making it easier to do business with Cargill.”

Four days later on April 26, Viterra announced its own plans to build the world’s largest canola crushing facility in Regina. Currently in the feasibility planning stage, Viterra plans to build a processor with the capacity to crush 2.5 million metric tons of canola annually. The company recognized the growth in oilseeds, given the demand for canola protein in food, animal feed and for renewable food production. The company plans to be in production by late 2024.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to pursue this substantial and historic investment in our asset network, which demonstrates our confidence in the future of western Canadian canola production, said Kyle Jeworski, CEO of Viterra North America on April 26. “Through this project, we will be able to further leverage our strong relationships with farm customers and support Saskatchewan’s growth plan for expanded value-added processing capacity. Further, this project will have a long-lasting and positive local economic impact, both in terms of employment related to the facility’s construction and permanent employment once the plant is up and running.”