Canadian Mining Journal


RARE EARTHS: Quest chooses blimps to fly in/out of Strange Lake

QUEBEC – Quest Rare Minerals of Montreal has chosen Straightline Aviation to provide air services for the transport of personnel, concentrate and supplies between its Strange Lake rare earths project 225 km northeast of Schefferville and the port of Sept Iles.

Straightline will be operate a fleet of seven of the world’s first heavy lift cargo hybrid airships, the LMH-1 made by Lockheed Martin. The airships will carry rare earth concentrates annually for delivery to Quest’s Becancour refinery.

Hybrid airships combine the technology of lighter than air aircraft with airplanes, helicopters and hovercraft. Helium provides 80% of the lift, while the remaining lift comes from the aerodynamic shape of the aircraft and its four thrust vectoring engines. The airship also features a unique hovercraft-like air cushion landing system that facilitates taxiing and grips the craft firmly on the ground. The airships can carry 20 metric tons of cargo and up to 19 passengers. Both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada have agreed on the newly developed hybrid airship certification criteria, which is being used to complete the type certification. First commercial deliveries are scheduled in 2019.

Quest is planning an open pit and mill to be built at Strange Lake. The preliminary economic assessment posits a project with initial capital requirements of $1.63 billion with a mine life of 30 years. The net present value before taxes is $1.42 billion and the pre-tax internal rate of return is 20.1%. The project will have an average annual output of 4,400 tonnes of heavy rare earths and yttrium plus 6,000 tonnes of light rare earths.

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