Sask. resource gains strength with emergence of lithium

Saskatchewan saw its first-ever lithium well and now the province is hopeful that there is more to come.

The Prairie Lithium Cooperation successfully concluded drilling its dedicated lithium brine well earlier this year in the fall. Since 2020, The Regina-bases lithium technology development company has been using proprietary technology to extract lithium from subsurface brine water.

Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre said that the global demand for lithium is expected to grow five-fold by 2030, making Saskatchewan’s investment in lithium much more important.

“We have extensive lithium reserves here, and the production of this silverly coloured key battery-metal will play a crucial role in strengthening and diversifying Saskatchewan’s already world-class mineral sector,” she said. “Right now, we have 95 per cent of lithium produced in the world elsewhere. We have an opportunity to put ourselves in the forefront here in that global conversation.

Lithium plays a big role in the EV (electric vehicle) sector, portable electronics, medication, all kinds of things, but if we can position Saskatchewan for the future and for the growing demand in these areas, then, of course, we are all in.”

She said adding lithium to Saskatchewan’s mineral sector sets the province up for a better future.

“Earlier this year, Natural Resources Canada identified a number of critical minerals considered essential for modern economics, which also have applications in clean and digital technologies, advanced batteries, security, and defence,” she said. “Of the 31 critical minerals identified, 22 can be found right here in Saskatchewan, including potash, uranium, helium, and lithium.”

CEO of Prairie Lithium, Zach Mauer, said not only is it a big step to get the first well drilled, but also they found some high concentrations of the mineral.

“Not only did we just conclude drilling on the first lithium brine wells, but in that well, we also discovered some of the highest lithium concentrations in Canada that I have ever seen in Canada,” he said. “Certainly an exciting time for lithium here in Saskatchewan.”

“With lithium, we have the opportunity to not just support the current oil and gas service jobs in the region, but also create new jobs and attract other disciplines in Saskatchewan,” he added.

To get the lithium, the company drills into the oil-brine underground and gets the fluid to the surface using brackish water that has been converted to reverse osmosis water. The company uses an ion exchange material to get the lithium out and then put the brine back underground.

Eyre said that this process is a lot better for the environment than other processes used around the world.

“Around the world and even in Canada, the lithium extracted right now is in hard rock, in ore oxide. It’s a very different process than this saltwater oil-field brine and really is a much more environmentally friendly process.”

While drilling, the project supported over 100 temporary jobs from 40 different companies.

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