This emerging perception of Canada as an imminent superpower in the mining of critical minerals will drive the defining technologies of this century, from electric vehicles to smartphones and solar panels.
This was a recurring theme of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to Washington.
it happens sometimes raised as A potential source of geopolitical power for Canada against, say, the United States. trade dispute,
we have also heard attention-grabbing suggestion From union leader Jerry Dias: That Canada should cut off the US from these minerals if it doesn’t budge in the electric vehicles controversy.
It conjures up impossible images of some kind of modern-day version of Canada running Saudi Arabia’s infamous oil sword of the 1970s.
Okay, now it’s time for the reality check.
Basic statistics offer cold water showers: Canada’s situation is not even remotely comparable Arab oil powerhouse of 1973,
In fact, global surveys show that Canada holds a small percentage of minable worldwide reserves of the critical minerals and lags not only behind world-dominated China, but many other countries as well.
“We’ve been sleeping for years and years and years and have chosen not to act,” said Eric Miller, a Canadian-born business consultant in Washington, DC.
“And the Chinese have had a deliberate strategy for 25 years to consolidate ownership in all-important minerals.”
So now that the rest of planet Earth has woken up to the economic importance of several dozen industrial minerals like cobalt and lithium, here’s the outlook.
buy electric vehicles Be expected To grow tenfold in this decade, fueling an insatiable appetite for lithium batteries and the cobalt that keeps them from melting.
here is the current math
The US Geological Survey runs a comprehensive list every year and for 2021 Edition Provides serious context about our position.
As for cobalt, Canada has three percent of the world’s extractable reserves – Australia has a seventh after Russia and the Philippines, and not even equal to Congo, with more than half of its known supply owned by China. is in.
For lithium, Canada has 2.5 percent of worldwide reserves, with Australia, Chile, Argentina, and of course, a microscopic share behind China.
This is similar to nickel, and copper, manganese, graphite and rare earths – where Canada has 0.7 percent of its known reserves, 53 times less than China.
Now let’s talk potential
The Canadian government says the USGS report does not tell the full story, because they define reserve Presently as economically viable mining sites which have failed to capture the huge potential lying in the ground.
the latest federal to help harness that potential Budget Spent $9.6 million to start an important minerals office and $47.7 million for research on processing and refining.
The challenges for Canada have been described in a recent Commons Committee Study: remote, inhospitable sites, cold weather, environmental considerations, and necessary indigenous-crown advice.
Another challenge? Chinese state-backed entities have been buying Canadian-owned properties for years – and they haven’t stopped.
China is buying our assets. Ask Hunter Biden
The New York Times informed of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter founded a company that helped China Molybdenum gain control of a US and US-owned Congolese cobalt and copper mine in 2016. canadian Company.
Just last month, China’s Xijin Mining Group Company made nearly $1 billion Proposal Canada’s Neo Lithium Corp to also buy Chinese battery maker CATL announced plan This fall to buy Canada’s Millennial Lithium Corp.
These proposals face new regulatory scrutiny.
Some were rejected before the rules were changed: Federal officials turned down a Chinese proposal Gold mine For those in the Arctic and based in Toronto construction and mining giants,
‘People have woken up’
A former federal cabinet minister says people are finally aware of the importance of vital minerals; He compared it to a decade ago when he ran Industry Canada and people talked about him mainly for his role in fighter jets.
“People have woken up,” said one-time Conservative minister Tony Clement. “I think there’s an increased understanding of what’s at stake. … I don’t think the public wants to see [those Chinese takeovers] now and.”
He says Canada needs better control Public funding may be needed to open up more mining sites on its supply chains.
So the past is not necessarily the preamble.
Trudeau talked about potential during his visit to Washington, and the need for North American trading partners to depend on each other – not fight each other.
“At a time when supply chains around the world are disrupted, when people are rethinking, ‘where are we getting things from,’ … Trudeau said during an event at the Wilson Center in Washington.
Things are happening in Canada.
It is estimated to reach its peak annual production 2,000 tons of cobalt per year, which alone would add more than one percent of total global production.
In Quebec, a lithium site facing bankruptcy and the complexity of mining in remote James Bay was plagued by increased costs. have bought by foreign companies, including Tesla supplier Livent.
Quebec Nemasca Lithium It now promises to open the largest lithium mine in North America with annual output worth more than one percent of global production.
In Ontario, one case serves as a reminder that Canada’s mining assets are not limited to our own territory.
A company that hopes to mine cobalt in Canada has move strategy After coming home empty; the first cobalt is now changing your name And, after signing an agreement with the global mining giant Glencore, Mining in Congo will refine various materials including cobalt.
Still, there are doubts that the world, let alone Canada, should make great efforts to usurp China’s dominance here.
Former White House official: Do we even need this?
those skeptics include someone who was director for China policy in the White House National Security Council under Donald Trump.
Matt Turpin says he has been part of studies on the issue several times over the years and the final conclusion was: let China do it.
He said that these metals are not really rare, dirty and expensive to process, and if China wants to subsidize all of them and sell the mineral cheaply to the world, so be it.
“It’s always hard to understand how we will create — and why we will create — alternative, more expensive, dirty production processes if Beijing is going to produce it,” Turpin said in a recent businesshala interview.
What about the national-security argument?
Isn’t the whole point about diversifying from China and making us less dependent on Beijing? Especially in times of increasing stress. After all, look at the disturbing example of what China did to Japan in 2010: It cut exports of these minerals.
Just two years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a very subtle threat By visiting a rare-earth production center at the height of a trade dispute with the US
Turpin also isn’t too stressed about it.
He doubts that China will engage in a long-term standoff over these minerals because, he said, other countries also have an advantage.
It’s called food.
“China cannot produce the food it needs. It needs to import it. So their reliance is very different from our reliance on rare earths,” Turpin said.
“We can produce rare earths. We choose not to. … They can’t produce the food they need.”
It just so happens that in contrast to its situation with lithium and cobalt, Canada is a powerhouse in potash, which is used in agriculture.
look | How Biden’s EV tax incentive could turn off Canadian automakers:
dominance was not built in a day
Turpin said it might make sense for US allies to build strategic reserves if China ever temporarily suspended supplies.
Nevertheless, diversification and expansion of supply will be a global priority for the foreseeable future. That’s going to take some time, says Miller.
“Chinese dominance has been, over time, to pieces. And it’s really been our choice not to push back,” he said.
“It took the Chinese a generation to gain dominance over important minerals. And it’s probably going to take two generations for the West to rebalance the equation.”