The Government of Manitoba has recently released the Manitoba Critical Minerals Strategy (the "Strategy"), a Strategy that capitalizes on the fact that Manitoba has 29 of the 31 minerals found on the federal government's Critical Minerals List, including lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements, the six minerals prioritized by the Canadian government as having the greatest opportunity to spur economic growth and fuel domestic capacity to support priority supply chains. 1
There are currently almost 50 companies exploring for critical minerals in Manitoba, representing over 70% of all exploration companies operating in the province.
Manitoba's Competitive Advantages
The Strategy states that Manitoba has an established mineral ecosystem with competitive advantages that provide a strong foundation for future growth and development. These include:
- Government Prioritization of Sector Development - interestingly, the Strategy claims that the government is committed to significantly streamline and expedite mineral permitting.
- A Strong Mineral History.
- World-class Geological Resources.
- Leading Sustainable Development - the Strategy states that the principles of sustainable development have been codified in The Mines and Minerals Act and have become the legal framework to implement the concept in Manitoba's mining sector.
- Connections to Key Transportation Network - the Strategy mentions that Manitoba has distinct strategic advantages due to its geographic location in the centre of North America with tri-modal links to the United States and Mexico, the Atlantic Trade Corridor, the Asia-Pacific Trade Corridor, and the Port of Churchill.
- High-quality, Low-cost Power - the Strategy mentions that Manitoba has reliable and non-emitting hydroelectric power and one of the lowest published electrical rates in North America.
- The Right Skills - Manitoba has an established workforce and education and training institutions in the minerals and manufacturing sectors available to support new projects and associated facilities
Lithium is essential for the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries for electronics, electric vehicles and grid storage, which represented 74% of the demand for lithium in 2021.
There are currently 20 firms pursuing lithium exploration and development in the province, most of the activity taking place in the South-East portion of Manitoba. Manitoba's lithium production currently comes from hard rock spodumene mined in that area at Sinomine Resource's (Tantalum Mining Corporation of Canada Ltd.) Tanco Mine.
Copper is an important element for electricity networks and one of the main materials used in wires and cables owing to its superior conductivity of electric current.
There are currently ten firms pursuing copper exploration and development in over 30 project areas in Manitoba. Manitoba's current copper production comes from Hudbay Minerals' Lalor Mine.
Nickel is vital mineral for energy storage and powering electric and hybrid vehicles. It is an important component of lithium-ion batteries; its chemical compound nickel sulphate is used in the production of battery cathodes.
There are currently 14 firms pursuing nickel exploration and development in over 25 project areas in Manitoba. Manitoba's current nickel production comes from Vale Canada's Thompson Mine.
Other Critical and Strategic Minerals Commodities
There are other critical and strategic mineral commodities in Manitoba, such as cesium, tantalum, chromite, cobalt, graphite, helium, magnesium, platinum-group elements, potash, rare earth elements, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, titanium, and zinc.
The Six Strategic Pillars
There are six pillars in the Strategy:
- "Global Awareness of Manitoba's Competitive
Advantages" and the guiding principles that underpin this
- Maintain a highly competitive and supportive business environment for exploration, mining, processing, and manufacturing of critical minerals—Again, the Strategy says that there will be a focus on innovative and streamlined processes that will attract investment, support partnership, advance projects, and help companies and communities in Manitoba continue to grow and thrive.
- Promote Manitoba as a destination of choice for investors and consumers focused on sustainable environmental, social, and governance practices;
- "Advancing Indigenous Involvement in the Mineral Economy", which includes programs that support the development and growth of Indigenous-owned businesses providing services to the mining sectors as well as First-Nation specific mineral protocols;
- "High-Quality Geoscience Information" and the government commits to revitalize Manitoba's geoscience capacity, to support Manitoba's research system and provide for innovative methods for critical minerals procurement;
- "Streamlined Regulatory and Permitting Processes," a topic identified as a top factor influencing investor interest. In order to achieve this objective without impacting environmental and social standards, the government says that it will spend $5 million to improve mineral exploration and mining systems, increase the member of staff supporting mining applications and establish a Permitting Office as a single point of contact with project proponents with dedicated navigation, coordination between departments and issue escalation support for all mineral permit, licensing, and tenure needs;
- "A Supportive Ecosystem of Value-Added Activities," including incentives such as the Manitoba Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit, the Processing Allowance Tax Credit, the Green Energy Equipment Tax Credit, and the Manitoba Works Capital Incentive; and
- "Training and Skills Development Pathways," which focuses on workforce development and attracting skilled international workers.
The Strategy announces that the government is currently developing a Manitoba Minerals Action Plan that will be released in 2024 and which is intended to focus on specific and time-bound actions that the government will take to implement the Strategy.
1. The strategy provides a detailed map of Top Critical Mineral Opportunities at page 6.