Critical Minerals Report – June 2024 News Roundup

"This deal will ensure Canada's critical mineral security for our allies and partners and prevent strategic rare earth minerals from being sent to China," said Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan's minister responsible for the council."

Government of Canada Welcomes Rio Tinto Project That Will Reduce GHG Emissions and Expand Manufacturing of Low-Carbon Aluminum

Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada

Decarbonizing the production of critical minerals and metals is essential to achieving Canada’s climate goals. Canada is the fourth-largest producer of primary aluminum in the world. As a long-standing supplier of strategic metals to the United States and across the North American industrial supply base, Canada must ensure that it can continue to provide aluminum products to critical sectors such as automotive and transportation, energy, and infrastructure. By supporting clean technologies and advanced manufacturing, the government will continue creating good middle-class jobs, strengthening our economy and building a greener future for all Canadians.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, welcomed Rio Tinto’s plan to expand production capacity for low-carbon aluminum in Canada. This project is another key step in the implementation of the groundbreaking ELYSIS™ smelting technology across Rio Tinto operations in the province of Quebec.

Once fully developed and implemented, the ELYSIS™ technology would eliminate almost all emissions associated with the Canadian aluminum industry’s smelting carbon footprint. The world-leading net-zero aluminum smelting technology will reinvent the chemistry of aluminum production by removing carbon from the chemical process and producing only oxygen as an output.

The announcement represents another significant step forward as the Government of Canada continues to position Canada for success with a cleaner, stronger and better-prepared economy—one that is competitive in a low-carbon world.

Sweden Joins the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance, Committing to the Sustainable Development and Sourcing of Critical Minerals

Critical minerals are essential to meeting our climate goals and transitioning to a prosperous net-zero economy. As countries around the world work to secure access to these critical mineral resources, it is equally important that the path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero is built with a human rights–based approach and a commitment to sustainability.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, along with Ebba Busch, Sweden’s Minister for Energy, Business and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister, announced that Sweden has joined the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance (SCMA), comprising of Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Under Canada’s leadership, the SCMA was created in December 2022 to drive the global uptake of responsible critical minerals supply chains and environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive and responsible mining, processing and recycling practices. The Alliance aligns with the G7 2030 Nature Compact commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 through a globally wide system change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) with a focus on sustainable and inclusive development.

The SCMA supports and supplements ongoing efforts in the multilateral sphere and elsewhere to build sustainable and resilient critical mineral supply chains. Members of the Alliance welcome and encourage work domestically and globally toward developing sustainable and inclusive mining practices and sourcing critical minerals that:

  • Employ a nature-positive approach to industry practices;
  • Support local and Indigenous communities;
  • Help fight climate change by reducing pollution and GHG emissions; 
  • Restore ecosystems by establishing clear requirements for the reclamation and remediation of mine sites;
  • Build a circular economy to accelerate the reuse and recycling of critical minerals; and
  • Foster ethical corporate practices through sustainability reporting and the implementation of due diligence measures in mineral supply chains.

 

Members of the Alliance encourage collaboration with Indigenous communities, non-governmental organizations, industry and other non-state actors, as well as actions taken domestically and globally to advance the objectives of the SCMA and call on other nations to join this international partnership.

Government of Canada Announces $10 Million to Support Critical Minerals Mining in Northern Ontario

Natural Resources Canada

Critical minerals present a once-in-a-generation chance for Canada to drive historic economic growth, create jobs and support the fight against climate change. Already, mining and related industries employ more than 625,000 Canadians and contribute around $100 billion a year to Canada’s GDP, providing a strong supply chain and technical expertise we can leverage. As a global battery metals hub with the world’s largest integrated mining industrial complex and world’s second-largest nickel deposit, Northern Ontario is uniquely well positioned to seize this opportunity and become a key player as the shift to electric vehicles and other technology requiring nickel and other critical minerals grows.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, announced two investments of $5 million each to the Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corp (MIRARCO) and Electra Battery Materials Corporation (Electra) to support the critical minerals sector in Canada, and in Northern Ontario specifically. These projects join nearly 130 mining projects under construction or planned over the next 10 years in Canada, representing a combined value of $93.5 billion, according to Natural Resources Canada’s Major Projects Inventory.

Funding to MIRARCO aims to advance technological readiness of the recovery of battery metals like nickel, cobalt and copper from mine tailings from the Vale and Glencore mines in the Greater Sudbury area, while reducing the long-term social and environmental costs associated with mine waste. Through this project, MIRARCO will directly feed into the battery supply chain, potentially unlocking significant amounts of nickel and cobalt in Sudbury, Ontario.

Funding to Electra will be used to advance the next phase of its battery materials recycling project. Electra is constructing North America’s only battery grade cobalt refinery, five hours north of Toronto, as part of a multiphase effort to build the North American supply chain for battery materials. Electra successfully ran a demonstration recycling program on a batch basis at this facility in 2023. Today’s funding advances the project, demonstrating the process on a continuous basis and showing that Electra’s proprietary technology is scalable, profitable and can be implemented at other locations. The battery materials recycling program will help conserve resources, reduce waste and reduce the environmental impact of battery production in North America’s critical minerals sector. Electra’s recycling program uses a new environmentally conscious process that will contribute to building a resilient Canadian electric vehicle battery supply chain.

For a historic mining nation like Canada — where we have residuals and tailings in communities across the nation — technologies like these present a significant opportunity to increase circularity in our economy and turn mining residuals and waste into an economic opportunity for Canadians. Funding for these projects comes from the Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration (CMRDD) program. The CMRDD aims to support the development of innovative processing technologies for the critical minerals industry, which will help advance Canadian mining projects toward production and is part of Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy

Creating domestic processing streams and developing further expertise within Canada will create and grow jobs and help us move toward a sustainable, prosperous low-carbon future. By making smart investments like those in MIRARCO and Electra, Canada is ensuring our natural resources, and the workers and economic benefits they bring to Northern Ontario and Canada, remain among the most sought after in the world, spurring innovation and helping us meet climate goals. We will continue to invest to advance Northern Ontario’s mining industry and fuel social and economic growth, while creating jobs and opportunities for families throughout the region.

Government of Canada Releases Updated Critical Minerals List

Natural Resources Canada

Critical minerals, and the clean technology and energy sources they enable, present a generational economic opportunity for Canada. Canada’s Critical Minerals List is a key resource in determining where to focus Canadian efforts related to sustainable mining exploration and extraction, advanced manufacturing, clean technology, as well as information and communications technologies and semiconductors. Critical minerals are the building blocks for the green and digital economy and demand for them will only grow throughout the global energy transition.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, announced that the Critical Minerals List has been reviewed and updated following substantial consultations to focus our efforts in developing robust critical minerals value chains. To determine which minerals are considered critical, Canada released its first Critical Minerals List in March 2021 with a commitment to review the minerals identified as critical every three years. The list guides federal policy and programs and signals government areas of priority to stakeholders. Public consultations took place with provincial and territorial governments, other government departments, industry, Indigenous groups and other interested or affected stakeholders.

An analysis was undertaken to review all minerals included in the 2021 Critical Minerals List and consider potential candidates for addition. These analyses resulted in an updated Critical Minerals List that retains all 31 minerals from the 2021 list and an additional three minerals, namely high-purity iron, phosphorous and silicon metal, for a total of 34 critical minerals. These materials are integral to a variety of products, critical to the energy transition are often those in short supply and they are those that are critical to our future economic prosperity.

For example, silicon metal is essential to the manufacture of chips and semiconductors, used in almost any and everything electronic. High-purity iron ore is essential to green steel and integral to decarbonization. Phosphorus combined with potash is essential for food security through the production of fertilizers. Phosphorus can also be used in Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries, another strategic opportunity in the EV value chain for Canada.

Critical minerals are the foundation on which modern technology is built upon. They’re used in a wide range of essential products, from mobile phones and solar panels to electric vehicle batteries and medical applications. By building critical minerals value chains, we can be the global supplier of choice for critical minerals and the clean energy and technology sources they enable. 

Ontario and First Nations Partnering to Support Economic and Resource Development in Northern Ontario

Government of Ontario

The Government of Ontario signed Letters of Confirmation that will support renewed partnerships with Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek, Aroland First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation and Long Lake #58 First Nation to unlock economic and resource development opportunities in northern Ontario, including future critical minerals projects.

“As we rebuild Ontario’s economy, our government is developing meaningful partnerships with First Nations across Ontario that create real opportunities for economic growth and job creation,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Together with First Nations partners, we’re improving and upgrading northern roads to better connect First Nations communities to the province’s highway network and to support future critical mineral and resource development opportunities. These are all season roads that will support First Nations communities, built by First Nations workers.”

The commitments outlined in the Letters of Confirmation include an agreement to upgrade the roads that connect First Nations communities to the provincial highway network and contain funding for other community infrastructure and skills training programs for First Nations people, including in resource development.

These agreements are an example of how Ontario can form stronger partnerships with First Nations communities farther north and help develop critical infrastructure to improve the health, social and economic conditions of those communities, while supporting future critical mineral projects.

Today’s agreement includes the following:

  • Building and improving the highway infrastructure that will help connect more First Nations communities to the province’s highway network. This work includes maintenance and upgrades to Highway 584 and Highway 11, with work starting this construction season.
  • $1.9 million from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development for the Indigenous Workforce Development Program through the province’s Skills Development Fund. The program will provide training and support to secure jobs related to mineral development in the region.
  • $2 million to fund the construction and maintenance of the Migizi Plaza Rest Stop, which will serve the needs of First Nation members, tourists and residents, create jobs and drive revenue for the First Nations and Municipality of Greenstone.
  • The province will work to relocate the Greenstone OPP detachment, with support for the relocation costs from Greenstone Gold Mine. Relocating the station will ensure that people have access to police services, close to home, following the displacement of the station during the mine’s construction.
  • The province will engage with relevant First Nations communities and police services to develop a pre-charge diversion program.

 

“Our government is proud to build consensus with First Nations leaders around key economic development opportunities in the north,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs and First Nation Economic Reconciliation. “Through strategic partnerships and critical infrastructure investments, we are laying the foundation for Greenstone to become the new centre of gravity for mining, in partnership with First Nations.”

Canada and U.S. Make First Co-Investment in Critical Minerals Producers

CBC News

The Canadian and U.S. governments say they’re co-investing in critical mineral producers for the first time as they work to boost regional supplies.

Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Defense are together putting about $32.5 million into Fortune Minerals Ltd. — which is working on a project with bismuth and cobalt in the Northwest Territories — and Lomiko Metals Inc., focused on a graphite project in Quebec.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the collaboration with the U.S. will help secure supplies of critical minerals that are needed for the green and digital economies.

The U.S. Department of Defense says its investments align with its national defence industrial strategy and show a shared commitment to strengthening North American material supply chains.

Fortune Minerals, set to receive $7.5 million from Canada and $6.4 million US from the United States, says the company is grateful for the funding because it has been difficult to attract investments for critical minerals in traditional capital markets.

Lomiko, set to receive $4.9 million from Canada and $8.4 million US from the U.S., says the investments are an exciting milestone as it works to help supply the energy transition.

Federal Government, Saskatchewan Research Council Swipe Sale of N.W.T. Rare Earth Metals from Chinese Buyer

CBC News

Vital Metals announced Monday that it’s selling its stockpiled rare earth material to the Saskatchewan Research Council for $3.3 million. This material comes from the North T deposit at the Nechalacho mine, 110 kilometres from Yellowknife.

Natural Resources Canada, along with Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, directly facilitated this transaction, which has the effect of keeping rare earth materials out of Chinese hands.

Vital Metals previously said back in December it planned to sell the stockpile to Chinese company Shenghe Resources for $2.6 million. This planned sale had been announced along with the news that Shenghe had purchased a 9.9 per cent stake in the Australia-based mining company.

“During the process, we became aware of a high-level interest in keeping the materials in Canada, for Canada,” said Geordie Mark, managing director and CEO of Vital Metals. “It shows the government of Canada recognizes the value of keeping the resources in the country. For us, we agree. We see the value of building a North American supply chain of rare earth materials.”

In December, N.W.T stakeholders greeted the news Vital was taking Chinese investment with disappointment, since the Nechalacho mine project had been marketed as a way for Canada to reduce Chinese dominance in the rare earth materials market.

Similarly, the federal government was also concerned about Chinese involvement. “We have been clear that the government of Canada will take steps to develop secure domestic critical minerals value chains to reduce foreign reliance, and to create jobs and economic opportunities here in Canada,” said Natural Resources Canada in an emailed statement. “We have also been clear that we will not hesitate to take action to protect national security and ensure critical minerals development benefits Canadians and our like-minded partners. As Minister Wilkinson has said, when it comes to financing questions from mining companies operating in Canada, the answer cannot simply be investment from Chinese state-owned industries.”

The statement adds that this intervention from the government of Canada reflects a concern for national security.

The Saskatchewan Research Council offered similar motivations for pursuing the purchase of the rare earth stockpile.

“This deal will ensure Canada’s critical mineral security for our allies and partners and prevent strategic rare earth minerals from being sent to China,” said Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for the council, in an emailed statement.

Minerals to be processed in Canada

The council said the rare earth materials acquired in this sale will be processed in their rare earth processing facility, but beyond that it is unclear what the government intends to do with the stockpile.

The soon-to-be-operational facility, which is the first of its kind in Canada, is only equipped to process monazite concentrate. However, the stockpile coming from Vital Metals is primarily rich in bastnaesite, according to Mark, which requires a different process than monazite to be made into usable material.

Beyond being rich in bastnaesite, Mark said he could not comment on the amount or makeup of the stockpile sold to the council.

Natural Resources Canada declined all interview requests from CBC unless they were attributed to an unnamed senior government source.

The research council also declined to comment beyond the emailed statement provided.

N.W.T mining experts react to sale

N.W.T mining experts, who previously had opposed the Shenghe investment in Vital Metals, expressed renewed positivity to the news of a change in buyers for Nechalacho’s rare earth materials.

Bill Braden, a former N.W.T. MLA who spent two years doing communications for Vital’s Canadian subsidiary, Cheetah Resources, said it’s a change he’s happy to see. He had initially expressed a feeling of “betrayal” at the announcement of Vital Metals partnering with a Chinese company. “What bothered me about it was a Canadian resource that was originally envisioned as being a part of a Canadian critical mineral supply chain was actually going to China. Absurd!” said Braden. “So I’m very happy to see this turn of events. It’s a good move and I’m pleased that Canada has taken a tough stand on this and blocked the entry of Canada’s resources into China.”

However, Braden expressed concern about what the Saskatchewan Research Council plans to do with the stockpile. “It’s a little bit of a mystery as to why the [council] is buying this stuff, because my understanding is that they are not equipped to process it,” said Braden. Braden said he is also concerned about Vital Metals’ consistently low stock prices.

Tom Hoefer, senior adviser of the N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said he supports the research council buying the stockpile. “I was pleased because this is a more consistent action to Canada’s critical mineral strategy,” said Hoefer. “This move to keep those minerals in Canada is a step in the right direction.” Hoefer expressed hesitancy, though, about a lack of policy development to support Canadian mineral supply projects and this being a one-off situation. “In my mind, this is a bit of an isolated move that has occurred. The reality is that our explorers and developers are still struggling to raise financing to fill in that early part of the supply chain, to find the mines and get them developed,” said Hoefer.

Vital Metals itself has struggled to get its own projects off the ground. It had a rare earth processing facility being built in Saskatoon, but that project closed last fall after its cost ballooned from $20 million to $60 million. The company’s Canada subsidiary, Cheetah Resources, also went bankrupt.

In these circumstances, Mark expressed how impactful this sale is to continuing their work.

“It’s great to get the material moved to either party and then be able to put those dollars further into the project,” said Mark. “This will certainly enable us to keep going at Nechalacho for some time.”

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