Canada publishes critical minerals catalog
Northern nation has 31 critical minerals and metals in stock Metal Tech News – March 15, 2021
Last updated 6/4/2021 at 8:06am
Canada thinks about critical minerals differently than the United States and European Union. While its Western counterparts have put together shopping lists of the critical raw materials that are in high demand by technologies important to their economic and security interests, but supplies may not be readily available, Canada's newly released list is more akin to a catalog of 31 critical minerals and metals it has in stock to meet the global needs of a world transitioning to low-carbon energy and electric vehicles.
Unveiled at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) 2021 convention on March 11, Canada's critical minerals list was assembled based on which raw materials are essential to its own economic and energy ambitions, as well as providing a reliable and sustainable supply of critical minerals and metals to its partners.
"The 31 critical minerals on Canada's list are used to develop clean technologies, from solar panels to EV batteries. They're all essential to lowering emissions, increasing our competitiveness, and strengthening our energy security," said Canada Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O'Regan.
While this catalog hosts many of the usual critical mineral suspects – cobalt, graphite, lithium, rare earth elements, and a majority of the other minerals and metals considered critical to both the U.S. and Europe – Canada's critical minerals inventory also includes copper, nickel, and zinc – base metals that are fundamental to building the green energy future but are more readily available than the more traditional critical minerals.
"These minerals and metals are essential to lowering emissions, they are essential to net-zero by 2050; they are essential to our economic competitiveness and our energy security; they meet the needs of our partners and the demands of emerging global trends," O'Regan said.
The United States assembled a list of 35 critical minerals in 2018 and the European Union updated its list of 30 critical raw materials in 2020. While these lists vary slightly due to the geopolitical differences of the global economic powerhouses, the criteria for determining criticality are nearly identical – raw materials that are crucial to their economies but are at risk for disruptions due primarily to overreliance on limited and sometimes unreliable supplies.
"We import lithium for electric cars, platinum to produce clean hydrogen, silicon metal for solar panels. 98% of the rare earth elements we need come from a single supplier – China. This is not sustainable," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a Feb. 23 opening speech at EU Industry Days 2021. "So, we must diversify our supply chains."
Canada's critical minerals supply list includes the energy materials named by von der Leyen and 18 others on the EU critical raw materials shopping list.
"We are moving forward with our allies and like-minded countries, including the European Union," said O'Regan.
The U.S., however, is Canada's largest trading partner and is expected to be its biggest critical minerals customer moving forward.
"We already supply 13 of the 35 minerals on the U.S. list and we have the potential to supply more," said O'Regan.
Early last year, Canada and the U.S. finalized a joint action plan to collaborate on securing supply chains for the critical minerals needed for EVs, renewable energy, high-tech, aerospace, defense, and other important sectors of the neighboring countries' economies.
Despite a major shift in the political views of the presidential office in Washington D.C since this critical minerals action plan was initiated, O'Regan says the new occupants of the White House are eager to continue to work with Canada to diversify supplies of mined materials, especially those needed to meet the green energy goals of the Biden administration.
The Canadian natural resources commissioner says critical minerals was a major topic of his first in-depth meeting with U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
"There is definitely a very clear enthusiasm on securing critical mineral supply chains between our two countries," O'Regan said during the unveiling of Canada's critical minerals list.
With its strategy focused largely on supplying the needs of the U.S., Europe, and others, Ottawa turned to the expertise of its mineral exploration, mining, and manufacturing sectors, as well as the provinces and territories across the northern nation, when assembling its critical minerals list.
The list that emerged from this industry-government collaboration prioritizes building an industrial base for the low-carbon and digitized economy that provides trading partners and investors with greater certainty and predictability.
"Demand for minerals and metals continues to grow with an increasing focus on critical minerals – vital in aerospace, healthcare, telecommunications and an array of clean technologies such as solar panels and electric car batteries," said Mining Association of Canada President and CEO Pierre Gratton. "We're confident that, with Canada's leadership in sustainable mining standards and the government's commitment to critical minerals development, the mining sector has the tools, skills and support to provide the responsibly sourced minerals vital to industries in Canada and around the world."
This focus on developing mineral projects that will help build a more sustainable future is something Canada's First Peoples can get behind, according to National Indigenous Economic Development Vice Chair Dawn Madahbee Leach.
"This is a real turning point in how resource development can become more sustainable in the future, where the focus is on minerals that are critical to the wellbeing of the climate and the planet, so that we can have a world that is healthy for our future generations," she said. "It makes absolute sense to concentrate the industry on those minerals that support our current and future survival needs, such as green energy, medical tools and equipment, the electrical vehicles of the near future, and the technology we use every day for communication, school, work, and business."
By leveraging its minerals expertise and world-leading environmental, social and governance credentials, Canada believes it is well positioned to be the supplier of choice for the metals critical to the wellbeing of the planet.
"Our expertise in mineral exploration, our vast resources, potential for further discoveries, and leadership in sustainable practices means Canada is in an excellent position to become the 'global supplier of choice' for the critical minerals that will drive the transition towards a low-carbon future," said PDAC President Felix Lee.
O'Regan was more succinct in describing the Great White North's critical minerals role.
"Canada will supply the world," he said.