On March 11, 2021, Canada unveiled its Critical Minerals List. The list includes 31 minerals considered integral to the Canadian economy, all of which are available in Canada. The list highlights focus areas in future Canadian mining policy and investments and builds on the existing Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan. The plan is a framework and signals the future strategic direction Canada will encourage in support of national security and economic growth objectives through the minerals and metals industry.
What Are Critical Minerals?
The 31 minerals are identified as critical minerals based on their necessity for economic growth and national security. The following factors were identified in selecting the critical minerals:
- contribution to Canada's economic and national security;
- role in achieving Canada's transition to low-carbon futures; and
- requirements by Canada's international allies, such as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, which may need these minerals for economic and national security reasons.
The 31 critical minerals listed below include minerals used in various strategic industries, such as clean energy, consumer electronics, critical infrastructure, agriculture, advanced manufacturing supply chains, and defence. The consumer applications of these critical minerals include batteries, solar panels, permanent magnets, and wind turbines.
|Cesium||Helium||Platinum group metals||Tungsten|
|Cobalt||Lithium||Rare earth elements||Vanadium|
Why Critical Minerals?
Due to the limited geographical distribution of these minerals around the world, they are prone to geopolitical risks and supply issues, including export restrictions. For example, Canada is one of the few Western nations with abundant deposits of lithium, graphite, cobalt, and nickel, all of which play an integral role in pursuing net-zero 2050 goals through their application in clean energy, electric vehicles, and batteries. In addition, critical minerals identified in Canada, such as niobium and indium, have applications in the aerospace, defence, and IT industries.
In announcing the list, Canada has stated that it recognizes that economic and national security is anticipated to increasingly depend on the stable, secure supply of these 31 critical minerals. On January 9, 2020, Canada and the Unites States announced the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration. In this bilateral initiative, the two countries confirmed their interest in cooperating to improve economic and national security through stabilizing the development and supply of critical minerals. The list affirms Canada's alignment of interests with the United States in ensuring open and free market for these critical minerals that are essential for Canada and its international allies.
The list confirms Canada's rising focus on exploration, development, and attracting investment into these strategic commodities. This is important given the increasing demand for these minerals, the existing geo-political risks inherent in current supply sources, and increasing interest in sustainably produced minerals.
While no government funding programs (e.g., geoscience programs) or specific policies were contained in the announcement, there appears to be growing government enthusiasm to promote and grow the domestic industry. We anticipate that, in time, policies and programs will emerge with a focus on support for the identification, development, and exploitation of these commodities and will include prioritizing infrastructure to support such efforts.
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