Falling behind on critical minerals mining

How do you mine critical minerals in Canada? Very slowly, according to one of the largest miners in Ontario’s Ring of Fire. 

Driving the news: Canada’s effort to ramp up its critical mineral sector is falling behind, an Australian mining magnate has recently warned in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

  • Andrew Forrest’s company, Ring of Fire Metals, controls the Eagle’s Nest mine—one of the most important deposits of critical minerals in Ontario’s Ring of Fire region.

Why it’s happening: It can take up to 25 years for a mining project to get greenlit, according to government estimates, much longer than in Australia and other mining-focused countries. 

  • Resources were first discovered in the Ring of Fire in 2006, and the area is still undergoing several environmental studies by different levels of government.

  • By contrast, when nickel and copper resources were discovered in Western Australia in 2012, it took only four years to open the Nova mine.

  • Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has promised to speed up Canada’s approval process, but changes are still in the planning stage.

Why it matters: Critical minerals mining is a key part of the government’s master plan to build a clean energy supply chain in Canada.

  • “If we’re going to bring supply online at the pace that the world needs to electrify, we need to shorten those timelines,” Teck CEO Jonathan Price told Bloomberg.

Zoom out: Both federal and provincial governments have made massive commitments to the clean energy sector—like the $13 billion set aside to help build a Volkswagen EV battery plant—but they may be getting a bit ahead of themselves. Without a way to supply minerals that those plants will need, the full potential of these investments won't be realized.—TS