Do not let Russia, China dominate the important mineral market: Minister


This week, Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson asserted that a strategic mistake was made in allowing Russia to dominate the world in oil and gas as the world ramped up production of vital minerals.

Demand for key minerals and metals – such as lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt and copper – is exploding as demand soars for everything from smartphones to laptops to turbines wind, solar panels and electric cars.

“Simply put, there is no energy transition without vital minerals, and this is why the resilience of the critical minerals supply chain is a priority,” said Wilkinson. increasingly for advanced economies,” Wilkinson said in the forward text of his promised draft key minerals strategy, setting out this week.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Wilkinson said that resilience will only come if Western countries do not allow for geographically concentrated mineral production in countries that cannot be trusted.

“Where we’re going to have an absolute claim on these minerals depends on countries that don’t always share our views on global issues and that has shown the possibility of sometimes using their control over some of these resources as a weapon, is not a good strategy,” he said.

“In the current context, China and Russia are the No. 1 and No. 2 producers and processors of many of these minerals. And so I think in the democratic world there is an understanding that we need to. Make sure there are stable and secure sources of supply.”

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is facing an oil and gas crisis as it tries to disengage from Russia’s overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels with no easy alternative. It was a wake-up call for Western democracies in the vital mineral sector, Wilkinson said.

“It’s an emerging reality for all of us,” he said, that when it comes to critical mineral supply chains, we “really need to look at where these minerals come from and how they are being produced.” We can actually work with other democratic countries to ensure the security of the supply.”

Currently, China is the largest global player in key minerals – it is the world’s largest producer with half of the 31 minerals and metals Canada has listed as important to the economy. its economy.

Although each country has slightly different lists and definitions of important minerals, they are often irreplaceable, in limited supply, economically important, and increasingly concentrated. in both mining and processing.

Russia is one of the three largest suppliers of palladium, scandium and titanium, producing one-tenth of the world’s nickel and 6% of aluminum.

Canada’s draft Critical Minerals Strategy is focusing on six minerals and metals that the federal government has determined have the greatest potential for economic growth and job opportunities: lithium, graphite, nickel , cobalt, copper and rare earth elements.

Canada does not currently produce any lithium or rare earth elements (a group of 15 elements classified together) but has reserves of both. According to the United States Geological Survey, by 2021, Canada will produce 1% of the world’s supply of graphite, 5% of nickel, 2.5% of cobalt and 2.8% of copper.

Russia is slightly ahead of Canada in all but lithium, which the country also does not produce. China leads in everything but nickel, accounting for 60% of the world’s rare earth elements, 82% of graphite, 14% of lithium, 9% of copper and 4% of nickel.

There is vast space for countries like Canada to strengthen that supply chain, with both the World Bank and the International Energy Agency predicting that by 2050, demand for vital minerals and metals will increase by 500%.

Wilkinson said Canada’s final key minerals strategy will be announced in the fall, but noted that the government has already budgeted $4 billion for it. Wilkinson said funding an incomplete strategy is not the usual course of action, but the government knows it can’t wait to get the money.

Production expansion is an important part of the plan, and that will include efforts to accelerate approval of new exploration and production projects, particularly with federal review processes through the U.S. Agency for Assessment and Evaluation. Price Impact of Canada.

“We needed to find ways to accelerate our ability to get things done,” says Wilkinson.

There is also $1.5 billion in infrastructure, said Wilkinson, given that many minerals and metals are located in hard-to-reach parts of the country.

This Canadian Press report was first published on June 16, 2022.

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