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The transition to electric vehicles is providing Canada with the “opportunity of a generation” says a new white paper that opens consultations for the government’s $3.8-billion Critical Mineral Strategy.

A strategy white paper, released at PDAC 2022 by Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of natural resources, cautions that critical mineral mining could become a “bottleneck” in EV transition without proper planning from industry

The transition to electric vehicles is providing Canada with the “opportunity of a generation” says a new white paper that opens consultations for the government’s $3.8-billion Critical Mineral Strategy.

The paper comes from the Liberal party’s election-time promise to develop Canada’s mining industry to be competitive globally as the world’s OEMs race to secure supplies of critical EV battery minerals. Before the $3.8 billion in funds can be disbursed, though the government must consult with affected sectors to understand how best the money can be invested.

The paper was released during this year’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Conference in Toronto, by Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

“Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy will position Canada as the global supplier of choice for the critical minerals and materials needed for the green, digital global economy,” said Wilkinson in a press release.

“We will work with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, industry and stakeholders to create a Strategy that will create good jobs for Canadians, grow our economy and make Canada a vital player on the world stage.”

Seeking stakeholder input

Canada currently produces 31 critical battery minerals. The government cites research from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that estimates the need for critical battery minerals will increase “sevenfold between 2020 and 2030.”

The Liberal government’s Critical Mineral Strategy will be built on five key pillars: economic growth and competitiveness; climate action and environmental protection; global security and partnerships with allies; advancing Indigenous reconciliation; and fostering diverse and inclusive workforces and communities.

“The purpose of this paper is to solicit your views on the Government’s approach to achieving these objectives,” reads the document.

“The Strategy will complement the pan-Canadian vision, principles, and strategic directions of the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP), developed with provinces and territories, industry, and Indigenous business representatives working to build a stronger, more competitive mining sector.”

In North America alone, estimates the government, over 220,000 jobs could be created in the mining, processing and manufacturing sectors by the end of the decade as a direct result of the transition to EVs.

One of the discussion questions posed by the government for stakeholder input is: “How do we leverage critical minerals investment into more diverse skills training, employment, and regional outcomes, including for local, rural, and Indigenous communities?”

Thinking bigger than “Mines to Mobility”

In 2019, the federal government launched consultations on a “Mines to Mobility” strategy that focused on how best to consolidate and leverage an integrated and complete EV battery value chain in Canada.

In consultations for the Critical Mineral Strategy the government is going a step further by widening the scope to focus on the “Exploration to Recycling” value chain and relying on the $1.5 billion designated for investment in manufacturing, processing and recycling projects in Budget 2022.

“The Strategy will incorporate circular solutions to close material loops, retain access to post-consumer resources through robust recycling infrastructure and secondary markets, and encourage the recovery of critical minerals from mining and industrial waste streams, which will further cement Canada’s innovative leadership in this area,” reads the Exploration to Recycling report.

The government specifically points to lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare-earth elements as the priority areas for investment under the Critical Mineral Strategy, with the research from the paper showing, “The World Bank forecasts a 500 percent increase is required — by 2050 — in production of minerals like cobalt…And for minerals such as lithium and graphite, demand could increase by as much as 4,000 percent.”

If Canada is able to scale its mineral extraction capabilities to meet the exploding demand, it could mean a considerable windfall given that the IEA has pegged the value of critical minerals to reach US$400 billion by 2040.

How to contribute

The Critical Mineral Strategy consultations are based on nine discussion questions divided into six focus areas ranging from innovation to Indigenous reconcilliation and global security:

  1. Do you concur that the value chains identified and their associated minerals offer Canada the greatest opportunities for economic growth?
  2. Are the six areas of focus and their associated objectives the right ones to help Canada achieve its vision on critical minerals for domestic and global value chains?
  3. What are priority areas for research programs (academia, industry, governments)?
  4. What more should be done to drive critical mineral exploration and innovation?
  5. How can we streamline the regulatory processes to better facilitate project development?
  6. What regional infrastructure gaps must be addressed (e.g., transportation and clean energy) to enable the sustainable development of Canada’s critical mineral resources?
  7. How can Indigenous governments and organizations, communities, and individuals partner and participate in critical mineral value chains (including regulatory processes)? How can government and non-Indigenous industry proponents support this effort?
  8. How do we leverage critical minerals investment into more diverse skills training, employment, and regional outcomes, including for local, rural and Indigenous communities?
  9. How might the Government work with its partners and stakeholders so that greater value is placed on high ESG standards throughout the value chain?

Consultations will take place between June 14 to September 15, 2022 and the final Critical Mineral Strategy will be released in Fall 2022, says the government.

Stakeholders interested in commenting are requested to “email submissions to NRCan’s Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence at cmce-cemc@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.”

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