Mining experts talk urgency of needed investment for battery metals, importance of furthering green mining
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Jun 18, 2021
Emma Buchanan

In the third panel of Electric Autonomy Canada’s national EV battery supply chain series, the country’s top mining experts brainstorm Canada’s critical two year plan

In the third panel of Electric Autonomy Canada’s national EV battery supply chain series, the country’s top mining experts brainstorm Canada’s critical two year plan

Electric Autonomy Canada hosted the third panel of a six-part series on Canada’s national EV battery supply chain this week with guest moderator, Theo Yameogo, Americas Mining & Metals Leader at Ernst & Young. 

The focus was on battery metals and extraction and discussions began with a dedicated message to viewers from Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources: “We’re all in on critical minerals, on batteries, on electric vehicles.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, address at Electric Autonomy’s battery supply chain event earlier this week

The Importance of acting now 

That pledge dovetailed into the guiding framework of the panel: what does “all in” look like and what does Canada need to achieve in the next two years to be competitive?

Chris Doornbos, CEO and director of E3 Metals was unequivocal: “the opportunity will be lost” if practical incentives and actions aren’t taken immediately in Canada because in two years the global battery supply chain will be well established. 

“It is important that the country acts now because with a growing market, there are gaps forming, too. And we can fill those gaps using Canadian expertise.”

What would speed up the process, says Doornbos, is getting manufacturing operations running within Canada.  

Patrice Boulanger, vice president of business development at Nouveau Monde Graphite said that, while Canada is recognized as one of the preferred jurisdictions for mining businesses and has a lot more flexibility with minerals, what’s still missing is the ability to add value to those minerals through processing, which is “highly critical where we need to attract and educate our own people so that they can fulfill the needs of the economy.”

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“I think it’s clear that billions of dollars needs to be included or involvement in pushing [for] this economy in Canada,” he said, adding that there is also a need to scale up demonstration facilities to get recognition and commercialize capacity.  

Leveraging a green technology edge

Samantha Espley, president of Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum said in order to capitalize on Canada’s “green” mining image  the focus is not just on streamlining access to remotely located minerals, but continuing to develop environmentally sustainable ways to do so.

“The opportunity with Canadian miners is to really leverage the great work that they’ve been doing in this regard. In engaging with Indigenous communities, engaging with the communities that are next door, looking for those win- win opportunities.”

Canada has a natural carbon competitive advantage, and that “few other jurisdictions produce these materials as responsibly,” said Brendan Marshall, vice president of economic and northern affairs at Mining Association of Canada. This will be increasingly important. 

“Consumers are concerned and asking questions about how and through what practices the materials that end up in the products that they use are extracted; what the implications are on a social basis on an environmental basis.”

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Boulanger echoed other panelists, adding that another green element to add is transitioning to electrified mining equipment, like Nouveau Monde already has in operation. 

“If we can show the rest of the world we can extract, refine and process minerals in the greenest way … I think that will put us way ahead of competition.” 

Two years or not at all

At the crux of the issue though, is time. The clock is running down on the opportunity the Canadian mining industry has and a fast national bet needs to be taken — not just on the raw materials, but also putting resources into the processing of the minerals.

“This is too big of an opportunity to be missed,” said Espley, simply. 

Boulanger and Marshall championed the local and global market appetite for clean, green mined (and made) in Canada minerals, with the added benefit of freeing Canada up from its overwhelming dependency on foreign supply chains. 

“We have everything we need here,” summed up Doornbos. “We need to go — really go.”

Electric Autonomy’s next panel discussion on Active Materials and Cells will take place on June 22. You can register for the event here.

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