An Ontario critical minerals strategy
To support a mines-to-markets electric vehicle supply chain Metal Tech News – March 23, 2022
Last updated 3/29/2022 at 2:55pm
Ontario has developed a mines-to-market critical minerals strategy that leverages rich stores of critical minerals in the northern reaches of the Canadian province, the already well-established mining sector found there, and the robust manufacturing sector that has been developed in the south.
"The Critical Minerals Strategy is our government's blueprint to connect industries, resources and workers in our province's north to the future of manufacturing in the south as we build up home-grown supply chains," said Premier Doug Ford. "Doing so has never been more important as we secure game-changing investments in our auto sector to build the electric vehicles and batteries of the future using Ontario minerals."
Last year, General Motors announced that it is investing roughly C$1 billion (US$800 million) to convert an existing auto assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, into Canada's first large-scale EV manufacturing facility.
The eastern Canadian province that extends from the Great Lakes along its southern border to Hudson Bay to the north has deposits of all the major minerals and metals needed to manufacture the lithium-ion batteries that go into these EVs.
In addition to cobalt, graphite, lithium, and nickel, Ontario hosts deposits and mines with at least 29 other minerals critical to renewable energy, high-tech, and other industrial sectors.
"This province is blessed with exquisite deposits of nickel, lithium, platinum, cobalt and dozens of other strategically important raw materials," said Ontario Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry Greg Rickford.
"These are the materials the world wants and needs for a broad array of uses, including smartphones, batteries for electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals, solar cells and advanced manufacturing technologies to name just a few," he added. "Under these growth conditions, reliable access to global supply chains is paramount."
Ontario's Critical Minerals Strategy 2022–2027 is made up of six pillars built upon its already solid mining foundation:
• Enhancing geoscience information and supporting critical minerals exploration.
• Growing domestic processing and creating resilient local supply chains.
• Improving Ontario's regulatory framework.
• Investing in innovation, research, and development.
• Building economic development opportunities with Indigenous partners.
• Growing labor supply and developing a skilled labor force.
As part of its support for critical mineral exploration, the province has allotted C$24 million for the Ontario Junior Exploration Program, which provides funding incentives for junior mining companies exploring early-stage mineral projects, especially those in northern and indigenous communities. Half of this funding is earmarked for early-stage critical minerals exploration.
In addition, the province is investing C$5 million in a new critical minerals innovation fund that will support research for extraction and processing in Ontario's north over the next two years.
To leverage its rich mineral endowment, Ontario is also encouraging domestic mining and processing that will further anchor the downstream EV supply chain.
"Ontario must build its capacity in chemical processing and battery component manufacturing to establish an integrated battery supply chain," the province inked in a report outlining its critical minerals strategy.
To accomplish this, the province has already invested C$336,000 in Frontier Lithium's innovative extraction process for lithium and C$5 million to support the production of battery-grade cobalt sulfate at Electra Battery Materials Corp.'s First Cobalt refinery near Cobalt, Ontario.
The province is also investing C$250,000 to support the development of a battery-grade nickel sulfate battery precursor cathode active materials plant at a future battery materials park being developed around Electra's cobalt refinery.
"Ontario is home to North America's only battery grade cobalt refinery, an abundance of nickel and clean hydroelectric power," Electra Battery Materials CEO Trent Mell said earlier this year. "Together we can leverage Electra's existing footprint and the Government of Ontario's ambitions to build a world class battery supply chain in the province."
More details of Electra's plans to develop an eco-industrial park capable of supplying enough battery materials for 1.5 million EVs per year can be read at Talon joins Electra battery park vision in the February 23, 2022 edition of Metal Tech News.
Ontario's battery supply chain ambitions involve every stage from critical mineral exploration all the way to installing the batteries built with Ontario minerals into EVs and recycling spent batteries back into the supply chain.
Toward this goal, the provincial government has committed C$400 million to the Invest Ontario Fund, which supports the newly formed Invest Ontario agency's efforts to attract investments in the key sectors of advanced manufacturing, technology, and life sciences.
These investments along the entire critical minerals supply chain are being bolstered by government initiatives to streamline Ontario's mining regulatory framework and encourage the recovery of critical minerals from mine waste; support technologies that will make the mining sector more productive and sustainable; collaborate with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit people on resource development projects that can provide benefits to the province's indigenous communities; and develop a more diversified workforce that matches the needs of increasingly sophisticated mines.
"Our government's vision for Ontario's mining sector is to transform it into a leading producer of critical minerals," said Rickford. "The Critical Minerals Strategy is our roadmap for driving this transformation and ensuring that Ontario takes its rightful place in the global supply chain for the economy of the future."
Together with other government initiatives, such as "Driving Prosperity: The Future of Ontario's Automotive Sector" and "A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan," Ontario is taking steps to support the growth of advanced manufacturing supply chains, including those related to EV production, and create sustainable economic development opportunities for the mineral-rich province.
"There will be exciting new opportunities for collaboration between the mines in the north and the manufacturing complex in the south," the minister added. "In a time of global supply chain uncertainty and conflict, Ontario is ready to support our allies, tap into new markets, and secure Ontario's place in the global supply chain as a clean, peaceful and cooperative destination to do business for decades to come – fueling job creation, growth and investment felt by all Ontarians."