Critical Minerals – News and Updates October 6, 2023

This month saw both the federal and the provincial governments extending relations and advancing their budding critical minerals industry with international counterparts. A roundup of a number of this month’s major partnerships includes:

Japan's Sumitomo Metal to invest in Canada's Nano One, Collaborate on Battery Material

Japanese Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura’s visit to Canada yielded positive results, as both countries agreed to strengthen relations and work more closely together to establish sustainable and reliable global battery supply chains. This agreement was solidified by a signed memorandum of cooperation.

This political decision was quick to spur investment between the two countries as shortly after, Sumitomo Metal Mining announced its investment of $16.9 million CAD into Canada’s battery material company Nano One Materials to collaborate on manufacturing technology for the material. Through the investment, Sumitomo Metal will own approximately a 5% stake in Nano One Materials. As the business practices of each company are complementary to one another, the collaboration is expected to produce a positive impact on the manufacturing technology for battery cathode materials at a lower cost and environmental impact.

South Korean Subsidiary Volta Energy Solutions launches Canada's first copper foil plant in Granby, Quebec

Jointly announced and celebrated by the Federal Government and the Government of Quebec, Volta Energy Solutions Canada Inc., a subsidiary of South Korea’s Solus Advanced Materials, is set to construct a copper foil facility in Granby, Quebec. This business decision is considered by both governments as a significant step towards Canada securing its own battery supply chain, ensuring that it has a comprehensive electric vehicle ecosystem, and advancing its position as a key destination for future electric vehicle manufacturing.

Through the $750 million CAD investment (in addition to a $150 million partly forgivable loan from the Quebec Government and up to $70 million from the federal government as per the ongoing negotiations), the plant will be dedicated to the production of high-end battery copper foil and is expected to introduce 260 highly skilled jobs to the local economy.

Alberta Launches First Lithium Pilot Project

The first-ever lithium pilot project, which is situated east of Olds in central Alberta, has recently celebrated its ribbon-cutting ceremony.

This new operation by E3 Lithium is designed to test commercial extraction of lithium from oilfield brines found deep underground. The brine, which is then pumped through the company’s unique extraction process, removes the lithium before returning the liquid to the Leduc aquifer otherwise intact. Through this process, the strategic goal is for the final commercial scale testing to allow L3 Lithium to start producing battery-grade lithium for export by late 2026.

This pilot project has been celebrated by the industry so far, especially for the supply chain and economic promise, as currently, lithium is in substantial global demand due to its critical role in electric vehicle batteries. As Alberta holds one of the world’s largest lithium deposits, seizing this previously ignored opportunity (due to the region’s established connection to the oil and gas industry) would be in direct alignment with the federal government’s Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy, which has a direct aim at lithium. 

Ontario, Nevada Sign Lithium Trade Deal

The governments of Ontario and Nevada have established an Economic Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding that will increase trade, attract investments, and strengthen their supply chains in the realm of critical minerals, electric vehicles, advanced manufacturing, and beyond.The focus of the agreement is lithium, which should benefit Ontario’s automotive sector by helping secure Nevada’s reliable source of the rare earth element as the demand for electric vehicles continues to grow. According to the Nevada Government, Ontario was selected as the prime for the partnership due to both jurisdictions’ strong and promising mining sectors, which through collaboration can maximize the emerging export opportunities of minerals. With a promise to strengthen the critical minerals sector, the agreement is part of the Government of Ontario’s strategy for trade with jurisdictions in the United States.

France and Canada Sign Critical Mineral Partnership

Building on the principles for the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance and the Canada-EU Strategic Partnership on Raw Materials, the Government of Canada and the Government of France have decided to deepen their cooperation on critical minerals with a focus on the following three objectives:

  • Securing Canadian and French critical minerals supplies and promoting investment;
  • Collaborating in industrial and academic research and development; and
  • Jointly promoting global environmental, social, and governance standards.

UK Signals Need to Collaborate with Canadian Indigenous Peoples in Critical Minerals Sector

In an exclusive interview with The Hill Times, United Kingdom’s Minister for the Americas and Caribbean David Rutley said that lessening natural resource economic dependence on Russia and China cannot be achieved “without also building relationships with Indigenous people in Canada.” In the interview, Rutley signalled the urgency for democratic states to collaborate to shift away from oil and gas and to move towards renewable energy and critical minerals. Prior to the interview, Rutley met with Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council. Caron called the meeting broad and brief, but also a “good relationship-building opportunity.” The National Council will be hosting an upcoming global summit, and a UK partnership on sustainable development goals and critical minerals extraction will be something to look out for. 

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