The McLeod Lake Indian Band (MLIB) and Defense Metals have teamed up to advance the Wicheeda Project, a rare earth elements (REE) project in central British Columbia.

The two companies have signed a strategic equity partnership and a co-design agreement.

Understanding the significant potential of the Wicheeda project, MLIB has purchased an equity stake in Defense Metals and now holds around 2.6 million common shares of the company.

In addition, MLIB has signed a co-design agreement with Defense Metals to create a new standard for collaborative project development.

The co-design agreement focuses on a joint planning approach, allowing MLIB to play a key role in the design and decision-making process for the Wicheeda project.

The agreements signal a transformative moment in the collaborative development of mining projects, particularly in the global push for critical minerals projects.

McLeod Lake Indian Band chief Harley Chingee said: “McLeod Lake Indian Band values its partnership with Defense Metals, and together, we are pioneering a new standard in collaborative project development, which is a true form of reconciliation.

“We’re proud to be a part of a project that will be a key contributor to global energy transition goals, and one that will deliver long-term economic benefits to our community for generations to come.”

The Wicheeda project, located around 80km northeast of the city of Prince George, is expected to contribute to the clean energy transition in British Columbia.

The site is readily accessible by all-weather gravel roads and has nearby infrastructure, including rail and hydropower.

It has the Canadian National Railway and major highways nearby, which allow easy access to the port facilities at Prince Rupert, the closest major North American port to Asia.

Wicheeda project has the potential to become a significant supplier of rare earth elements, with a targeted annual production equivalent to around 10% of current global production.

Defense Metals CEO Craig Taylor said: “We’re proud to partner with MLIB and these strategic agreements exemplify a shared vision and commitment to realizing the full potential of the Wicheeda Project and the positive impact it will have on the global Critical Minerals Transition.

“Through both agreements, McLeod Lake Indian Band stands to reap mutual benefits from our combined efforts around the Wicheeda Project.”