Canadian Manufacturing

Canadian Chamber of Commerce urges federal parties to talk critical minerals strategy

China is the world's largest rare-earth producer, with more than 60 per cent of global annual production, well ahead of the U.S., Myanmar, Australia and India.

September 2, 2021  The Canadian Press

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce wants federal leaders to get serious about making critical minerals a fundamental part of North America’s economic recovery.

The chamber says Canada is missing a “major opportunity” to be a world power in producing the minerals and rare-earth elements that power everything from cellphones to electric cars.

It says critical minerals must also be at the core of any successful strategy to transition to a low-carbon economy and mitigate the impact of climate change.

But so far, Canada’s federal election campaign has been devoid of any serious discussion about capitalizing on the country’s rich reserves of critical minerals and rare-earth metals.

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The chamber wants to see detailed plans for expanding domestic production, fortifying supply chains and partnering with the United States, where demand is already soaring.

China is the world’s largest rare-earth producer, with more than 60 per cent of global annual production, well ahead of the U.S., Myanmar, Australia and India. Canada, meanwhile, is home to an estimated 15 million untapped tonnes of rare-earth oxides.

“Canada urgently needs a trade and economic strategy for our own critical mineral deposits,” the chamber warns in a statement to be released on Sept. 2. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

In February of this year, meetings between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden produced a “road map” for a renewed bilateral relationship that included vows to make Canada and the U.S. “global leaders in all aspects of battery development and production.”

Since then, however, the American commitment to that plan has come into question, particularly given Biden’s strident rhetoric about his protectionist “Buy American” doctrine and the apparent disconnect over non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border.

Canada is already a key source of 13 of the 35 minerals that the U.S. has identified as critical to its economic and national security — it is America’s largest single supplier of potash, indium, aluminum and tellurium, and the second-largest source of niobium, tungsten and magnesium.

But it must do more, the chamber says, including:

  • Stimulate the domestic industry through government procurement contracts;
  • Set up joint purchase and stockpile agreements with its largest and most vital trading partner;
  • Create targeted tax and regulatory incentives to help jump-start extraction projects.

“The importance of strengthening trusted and sustainable critical mineral supply chains and reducing our dependence on China is growing for both Canada and the United States,” the chamber says.

“Building our domestic production capacity will strengthen both cross-border supply chains and our national security. It will also reduce our vulnerability to supply shortages in times of crises like COVID-19.”