Critical Minerals – News and Updates – January 2024

This month in critical minerals, we saw Federal Investments Support British Columbia Talent and Labour Development for Critical Minerals and Sustainable Supply Chains

Federal Investments Support British Columbia Talent and Labour Development for Critical Minerals and Sustainable Supply Chains

On December 7th, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, announced a $1-million investment over two years to the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Bradshaw Research Institute for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) to support the development and increased offering of its Executive Microcertificate in Economic Leadership for Mining program.

The program will boost professional careers by teaching organizational leadership skills while addressing key challenges faced by mining and exploration companies worldwide. Funding will provide 300 scholarships targeting individuals who require financial support to access the program, making it more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience. BRIMM will also provide two in-person microcertificate programs for up to 50 students each in Argentina and Chile to grow and strengthen professional networks.

BRIMM microcertificate graduates will actively contribute to enhancing environmentally sustainable practices through conscious leadership in a world where business optimization and sustainability have become a priority for economic development. The program will help address the current skilled labour shortages in the mining sector in Canada and many other mineral-rich countries. 

Federal Government Launches Critical Minerals Grant for Traceability Projects

Driven by emerging due-diligence concerns in the critical minerals supply chains, the traceability of critical minerals — to ensure transparency and to promote high environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices in mining — is critical to Canada. To advance this, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, announced a call for proposals for grants that support the Critical Minerals Traceability Project (CMTP) as part of the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy. With up to $675,000 available over three years, the CMTP will provide funding to private-sector, commercial-stage pilot traceability projects for critical mineral supply chains.

The Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence (CMCE), at Natural Resources Canada, is accepting applications for these grants from Canadian companies with a specialization in traceability technologies. Partnerships between the applicant organization and other companies, organizations or levels of government are encouraged but not required.

The grant will fund up to $100,000 per project per year for up to three years. Successful applications would demonstrate the strongest potential to identify ESG credentials, enhance transparency of Canadian supply chains and create value for those chains. Notification of successful applicants will occur in spring 2024.

Applications can now be submitted by email to the CMCE, with a deadline of January 30, 2024,11:59 p.m. PT. For any questions or to request an application package (including the Application Guide, Application Form and Budget Form), please contact the CMCE by email at

Government of Ontario Strengthening Electric Vehicle Supply Chain Through Investments in Mineral Exploration Projects

The Ontario government is investing close to $9 million to help junior mining companies finance early exploration projects to find critical minerals used in electric vehicles, smart phones, laptops, medical equipment and renewable energy. The funding is being delivered through the Ontario Junior Exploration Program (OJEP), which helps boost growth and job creation in the province, particularly in northern and Indigenous communities.

Through the program and investment, financial assistance (up to $200,000 per project to cover 50% of eligible costs; or up to $10,000 to cover 100% of eligible costs per project supporting Indigenous employment and business opportunities) will be provided to junior mining companies to finance early exploration projects that fall under the following two streams:

Critical Minerals Stream – Eligible projects are where a critical mineral that has been identified on the Ontario critical minerals list will be the primary or secondary mineral exploration target.
Exploration Stream – Eligible projects are those where the exploration target is a mineral not included in the Ontario critical minerals list, as well as for any primary target projects or secondary target projects that are being considered under the exploration stream.
Launched in 2021, OJEP helps junior mining companies cover eligible costs for critical and precious mineral exploration and development. Through its third intake, OJEP has committed $8.9 million in funding to 54 projects – 37 of them exploring for critical minerals – leveraging approximately $21 million in additional investment from industry. Ontario has committed a total of $35 million over four years to the program.

Canadian-Owned Mine Faced with Closure in Panama

In early December, it was announced that a Canadian mining company was expected to begin the process of closing its multibillion-dollar operations in Panama after weeks of civil unrest and protests from civilians fearing the ecological repercussions of its open-pit copper mine that is twice the size of Manhattan.

Panama’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a 20-year concession for the Cobre Panama mine, operated by the Canadian mining company First Quantum, is “unconstitutional,” arguing that the mine damages a forested coastal area and threatens scarce water supply in the region.

The disputed contract, which caused massive protests throughout Panama over the last month, provided First Quantum a 20-year mining right, along with the possibility of extending it for another 20 years, in return for US$375 million in annual revenue to Panama.

Following Tuesday’s ruling, First Quantum confirmed its “unwavering commitment to regulatory compliance in all aspects of [the company’s] operations within the country.” In a televised address on Tuesday, Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo called for an “orderly and safe closure” of the mine.

The conflict over the open-pit Cobre Panama mine has prompted protests and blockades on the road leading to the mine’s power plant and on parts of the Pan American highway in recent weeks. According to Reuters, the closure of Cobre Panama could lead to ramifications in the global copper market, as the mine accounts for about one percent of the world’s copper production.

Rio Tinto Sells Stake in Canada Diamond Project, Ups Interest in Copper

Rio Tinto is reshuffling its interests in two Canadian projects as the global miner seeks to focus on assets considered key for the world’s transition to a green economy, such as copper and lithium. The company has decided to sell its 75% interest in the Fort à la Corne diamond project, in central Saskatchewan, to joint venture partner Star Diamond, in exchange for shares in the junior. As a result, result Rio Tinto Exploration Canada will own a 19.9% stake in the Canadian exploration and development company.

Rio Tinto head of exploration Dave Andrews said the company was now “firmly focused” on identifying opportunities in metals and minerals that support the energy transition.

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