Critical Minerals – News and Updates – February 2024

This month in critical minerals, we saw executives from Canadian and international silver mining producers operating in the country have appealed to government to recognize silver as a critical mineral.

Miners Appeal to Canada to Declare Silver a Critical Mineral

Executives from Canadian and international silver mining producers operating in the country have appealed to government to recognize silver as a critical mineral.
 
In a letter addressed to Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, the executives outlined their reasoning behind their push for silver to be included on the list.
 
For a mineral to be considered for the critical minerals list, it must: be essential to Canada’s economic or national security, be required for the national transition to a sustainable low-carbon and digital economy and contribute to Canada serving as a sustainable and strategic source of critical minerals for its international allies. In addition, critical minerals must satisfy both of the following criteria: the mineral’s supply is threatened, and the mineral has a reasonable likelihood of being produced in Canada.
 
“While we believe that an effective argument can be made that silver meets all of the first three criteria, the most striking argument for silver as a critical mineral falls under the scope of the second criteria and its requirement as an input to the clean energy transition,” the letter states.

Aluminum Added to Quebec’s Critical and Strategic Mineral List

This month saw the addition of aluminum to Quebec’s list of critical and strategic minerals, a decision that is being celebrated by the Aluminum Association of Canada.

The government’s decision comes at a strategic moment in our industrial development, when Quebec, which produces 75% of North America’s primary aluminum, will play a major role in the decarbonization of the North American economy through its contribution to electrification. “From the production of renewable energy with solar panels through transmission lines and all the way to batteries and electric vehicles, Quebec’s low-carbon aluminium is essential from start to finish,” said Jean Simard, President and CEO of AAC.

Aluminium is listed as a critical mineral in the USA, Canada and, more recently, Europe. Canada produces more than 80% of North America’s primary metal, and nearly 45% of all primary metal in Europe and the United States combined. It is also the largest source of low-carbon metal production from a democracy.

Government of British Columbia Celebrates Mineral Exploration Week 2024

Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation, has released the following statement in celebration of Mineral Exploration Week 2024, from Jan. 21-27:
 
“British Columbia’s mineral exploration sector serves as the foundation of our mining economy, creating jobs that support thousands of British Columbians and their families throughout the province.
 
“Mineral exploration is vital to unearthing new deposits, including critical minerals, which are the building blocks of clean technology and today are more important than ever because of their role in helping us to transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean-energy future. This work is indispensable for shaping a better future for all people in British Columbia.
 
“Exploration is the lifeblood of the mining industry as it leads to the discovery of new mines, more investments, and new jobs in the sector. Our government has already taken significant steps in support of mineral exploration in B.C., including streamlining permitting, promoting the province through the BC Regional Mining Alliance, introducing the Exploration Incentive for reclamation security, and making permanent the B.C. mining exploration tax credit and B.C. mining flow-through share.
 
“As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, I am deeply committed to continuing to collaborate with the mineral exploration industry, particularly as we make progress to unlock our great potential for additional critical minerals development in the province.
 
“First Nations play a crucial role in the mining and exploration sector in B.C. It is important that we continue to work together to create new opportunities and foster the growth of the sector with a focus on caring for the land through environmental sustainability and economic benefits.
 
“Reforming B.C.’s Mineral Tenure Act (MTA) in partnership with First Nations and First Nations organizations is a priority for our government. Over the next 15 months, we will build on our collaboration to date with First Nations, industry and communities to develop an MTA that works for today, that balances our commitment to reconciliation with a thriving mineral exploration and mining sector, and most importantly, that aligns with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
 
“This week, let us express gratitude for the significant contribution the mineral exploration sector makes to B.C.’s communities and economy.
 
“I invite you to join me in celebrating B.C.’s world-class mineral exploration sector during Mineral Exploration Week 2024.”

Premier Eby Announces Phase 1 of British Columbia’s Critical Minerals Strategy

Phase 1 of a new made-in-B.C. Critical Mineral Strategy delivers key actions to build a clean economy by expanding the critical minerals sector in alignment with the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The world needs a stable, free, democratic, high-standard producer of the metals and minerals needed to battle climate change. That gives B.C. a generational opportunity to seize, one where we can be prosperous and protect the planet for our kids at the same time,” said Premier David Eby. “Resource workers like miners in our province are on the front lines of the fight against climate change. We’ll support them and their families, so they can support the whole province.”

Critical minerals, such as copper, nickel and molybdenum, are essential components in products used for clean energy like electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, electrical transmission lines and batteries. B.C.’s mining sector provides many of the building blocks of clean technologies that the province and the world need to fight climate change and build a clean economy.

The first phase of the Critical Minerals Strategy launches 11 key actions, including:

  • Taking action to expedite critical minerals projects and maximize federal funding opportunities through a new Critical Minerals Project Advancement Office;
  • A B.C. critical minerals atlas to provide world-class geoscience data that is always current, and to support exploration and land-use planning;
  • Alignment of Provincial and First Nations Energy and Mining Council critical minerals strategies, and continued engagement with First Nations across the province;
  • B.C. to work in partnership with First Nations and industry to identify and advance critical-mineral infrastructure like the North Coast Transmission Line that is essential to critical-mineral development and growth, supported by a $36-billion BC Hydro capital plan; and
  • Taking action to ensure the highest environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, a new Energy and Mines Digital Trust project that empowers major mining operators in B.C. to be more transparent about where and how their products are made.

“As the economy transitions to clean energy, B.C. and the world are going to need critical minerals to build electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, and more,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “With rich mineral deposits, B.C. has a generational opportunity to drive growth and create new jobs for people across the entire value chain of critical minerals, from mining to manufacturing to recycling.”

In addition to opening up opportunities to develop additional critical minerals in B.C., the strategy also focuses on new ways to add value to the sector by growing downstream opportunities, such as processing and manufacturing, as well as battery recycling, that will see mined materials put back into the supply chain.

Future actions to expand B.C.’s Critical Minerals Strategy are expected to be delivered in the coming months. Next steps include actions to support First Nations participation in projects, economic analysis and support for First Nations’ capacity building to develop and refine policies and actions. An important part of the work ahead will be ensuring that the strategy is aligned with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

During Premier Eby’s announcement at the Association of Mineral Explorers annual conference, he shared exploration expenditures and mine production numbers for 2023, reaffirming another strong year for B.C.’s mining and mineral exploration sector. Last year, mineral-exploration expenditure in the province was $643.5 million, 94.1% higher than in 2018, the first full year of this government’s mandate. Mining production value is forecast to be more than $15.9 billion for 2023, a 63.9% increase from 2018. Over the past several years, B.C. has also made significant progress on exploration-permitting timelines, including a 52% reduction in the backlog of permits.

The Government of British Columbia’s brochure on Phase 1 of the Strategy can be accessed here.

Report Raises Questions Around Growing Mining Exploration in Northern B.C.

A new report by the U.S. branch of the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency says that investment interest and government tax incentives are fuelling intense mining exploration in remote northern B.C. — raising concerns about the environmental impacts of the work and its financial implications.

The report focuses on the transboundary region, which falls along the border between the Alaska panhandle and the province of B.C. Much of this exploration is focused on the so-called Golden Triangle, which in many areas is still covered by glaciers.

Scientists say melting glaciers could offer new habitat for salmon. But the area is also rich with gold deposits.

According to the report, more than 450 Canadian companies are currently focused on claims staking and mineral exploration in the area, and are linked by a risk-sharing strategy called the Prospect Generator Model.

The financial model involves staking vast swaths of land and raising funds for multiple claims at once, sometimes in partnership with several companies.

Overview of the Report’s Key Findings:

  • 20% of all B.C. mine claims by area are located in this salmon-rich region.
  • 18% of mine claims in the AK-B.C. transboundary region are covered by glaciers.
  • Over 80% of B.C. mine claims in this region are within 5 km of a river/stream.
  • Over 100 B.C. mine projects are in some phase of exploration, proposal, or operation here.
  • Over 450 mine companies are linked in network that shares attributes of a Ponzi scheme.
  • Most of these companies are only listed on the TSX.V and generate no revenue.
  • Canada is incentivizing gold prospecting, not international collaboration or climate action.
  • Canada’s/B.C.’s tax benefits for mining companies here = $500 million in forgone taxes.

 

For more information on the Report, CBC News Canada has published an article which can be accessed here.

Arbor Metals Unveils Promising Assay Results from Fall 2023 Exploration Program at Jarnet Lithium Project

Arbor Metals Corp. is pleased to announce the highly anticipated assay results from its Fall 2023 prospecting program at the Jarnet Lithium Project in the Eeyou Istchee Baie-James territory, Northern Québec. The southern extremity of the Project is located 2.5km north-west of Patriot Battery Metals Corvette 5 spodumene bearing giant pegmatite.

The exploration manager for the Project, Grander Exploration, stated, “We are pleased to announce the assay results from the 2023 prospecting program, marking a significant milestone in Arbor’s exploration efforts.”

A total of 77 rock samples were collected, including 46 oriented channels totalling 41 metres. These samples were taken to crosscut known pegmatite and obtain a representative sampling, mainly from the central claim block.  In addition, 31 chip samples were obtained from new pegmatite identified. The South block was briefly worked to note the absence of outcrops with the sampling of five large sub-angular boulders.  The north-east block was not covered during the program.

On central block, evidence of an extensive pegmatite field was identified despite of the scarcity of outcrops. One to three meter wide pegmatite outcrops were present associated with large boulder fields showing a usual muscovite rich composition associated with corroded feldspars and intergrowth quartz and local minute amount of dark blue tourmaline. To the south of the block, pegmatites are hosted in gneiss derived from sediments. Southward, the same type of pegmatite is hosted in amphibolite.

Of particular note is the highest grading sample in this program, which yielded 88ppm lithium from sample 351593. The pegmatite sample showing a zoned structure came from a metric boulder found on the South Block Otherwise the whole samples population returned an average of 16ppm lithium with local spikes in Cs (33.8ppm in sample 267121), Ta (55.3ppm in sample 267122). Samples show a moderate Rb enrichment with an average of 338 ppm Rb. All of which demonstrates the presence of lithium-enriched pegmatites, and confirms the Company is on the right path to a significant discovery.  

The complete announcement can be accessed here.

Wyloo Metals Provides Update on Ring of Fire Mining Projects

As the demand for critical minerals grows, the CEO of the main company involved in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire says it’s developing a nickel deposit that could be producing minerals for two decades. 
 
Wyloo Metals CEO Kristan Straub gave the update Tuesday in a speech to business leaders in Thunder Bay, where he outlined the company’s plans for the Ring of Fire and discussed how his company is engaging with First Nations in the region now and into the future. 
 
“[Eagle’s Nest] is Canada’s best opportunity for a new nickel sulphide deposit,” Straub said.  
Straub was speaking about Wyloo’s Eagles Nest site, approximately 500 kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay. Of all the company’s mining hopes in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire mineral deposit, he said this site is where it is choosing to develop first. It’s the most promising discovery and the mining project closest to production in the region. 
 
Eagle’s Nest would produce 15,000 tons of nickel annually for an expected 20 years, said Straub. 
Wyloo metals, (formerly known as Ring of Fire Metals and Noront Resources) is an Australian-based mining giant ultimately controlled by billionaire Andrew Forrest. The company holds the majority of established mining claims in the region, which it says contains minerals worth around $90 billion.
The province considers nine First Nations to be within the Ring of Fire– and Wyloo has promises for them. Straub said the company is aiming for a workforce composed of at least 50 per cent Indigenous employees, and plans to award millions of dollars of contracts to local, Indigenous-owned businesses willing to collaborate. 
 
Two of those First Nations — Webequie and Marten Falls — have signed memorandums of understanding with Wyloo, and they are both leading an environmental assessment on a proposed road to the Ring of Fire, Straub said. 
 
The Northern Road Link project would connect two other proposed roads: one is an access road that will connect the community with the provincial highway system to the south. The second project is the so-called “Northern Road Link” that would lead to a proposed Ring of Fire mining site known as Eagle’s Nest. The Northern Road Link is being touted as a critical lifeline. For prospectors, it would provide a pathway to minerals needed to build the electric vehicle batteries that are hoped to fuel Canada’s green economy.
 
For Webequie and Marten Falls, it’s hoped to bring wide-scale economic development and better access to goods and services. “Webequie and Marten Falls are definitely the two closest First Nations in a nearby framework, and those are the two that we continue to work with,” said Straub. “The First Nations that are in the region around, we’ll look to build the support and the collaboration with them. Ultimately that’s their decision whether they partner in or not.”
 
While other First Nations say they respect Webequie and Marten Falls’ position, many aren’t willing to go along with development just yet. 
 
To continue reading the CBC News Canada article, please click here.

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