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Manitoba plays a role in Canada’s sustainability and economic security with critical minerals

As the world embraces new technologies such as electric vehicles, and the transition to low-carbon energy sources continues, the demand for metal and minerals—especially critical minerals—keeps rising. Critical minerals are vital to telecommunications, computing, clean energy and defense, and jurisdictions around the world are on the hunt to secure their sources. 

While the mining industry already plays a major role in Manitoba’s economy, critical minerals represent a significant new opportunity. Critical minerals are a valuable commodity and integral to Canada’s own technology manufacturing industry and our supply chain.1 In fact, critical minerals are so essential to the world economy that supply access is a national security issue.2 On March 11, 2021, the federal government announced its list of 31 critical minerals3, established after work with the United States on the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals.4

Where we stand
Today, China leads the world in production for many of the minerals. China produces 33.7 per cent of the world’s zinc and 60 per cent of the world’s rare earth elements.5 However, Canada has some of the largest reserves of rare earth elements in the world, estimated at over 15 million tonnes.6 Canada is also an important supplier for 13 of the 35 U.S critical minerals,7 and the only Western nation with abundant cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel which are vital to the growing battery and electric vehicle sectors.8

Making plans
Canada’s critical minerals assets were front and centre in the 2022 Federal Budget announced on Apr. 7. The budget included earmarks for up to $3.8 billion for the country’s first Critical Minerals Strategy—a move applauded by many in Canada’s mining industry.  The Federal Budget Critical Mineral investments included $80 million for geoscience and exploration programs to find new critical mineral deposits, $1.5 billion for infrastructure investments in new mineral projects in critical regions, $1.5 billion for new critical minerals projects focussed on processing, manufacturing and recycling for products in the battery and rare-earths supply chain, $144 million to research and development for responsible extraction and processing of critical minerals, $40 million for northern regulatory processes in reviewing and permitting critical minerals projects, $70 million to promote Canadian mining leadership in global partnerships, renewed funding for Canada’s Centre of Excellence for Critical Minerals, and doubling the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for targeted critical minerals.

Manitoba matters
As the critical mineral industry heats up, where does Manitoba fit into it all? Our mineral-rich geography has a lot of potential, and moves are being made to capitalize on all of it.

The province currently produces nine minerals on Canada’s critical minerals list, and five more are under advanced exploration or there are known reserves. Another four are in the early exploration or potential resource phase, and there are known occurrences of another 12.9 

Manitoba mines produce nickel, copper, zinc and gold, as well as 100 per cent of Canada’s cesium, lithium and tantalum.10 According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, the metals “are vital components for manufacturing electronics, specialized batteries, and jet engine parts and are considered an integral part of the North American supply chain for the downstream manufacturing sector.”11

Making moves
In June, the Manitoba government approved the province’s first-ever potash development near Russell, Man., with the Potash and Agri-Development Corporation of Manitoba (PADCOM) and Gambler First Nation developing the project. “This is a significant step forward in our commitment to establish Manitoba as a global leader in sustainable mineral development,” said Premier Heather Stefanson on June 14. “Our government is proud to announce PADCOM has received all required approvals to move Manitoba’s first potash mining operation into production. We are working with Indigenous leadership and communities to promote participation in the mineral resource sectors and to ensure communities share in the benefits that result from growth in these sectors.”

In November, the Province of Manitoba announced another $5 million investment to improve capacity and systems to support mineral exploration and mining. “Our government is focused on attracting new investment into Manitoba’s mining sector and increasing Indigenous participation in mineral development activities,” said Natural Resources and Northern Development Minister Greg Nesbitt with the announcement. “We want the world to know that Manitoba is open for business and through this new investment we are accelerating Manitoba’s position as a world leader for responsible mineral development.” According to the minister, the money “will be used to support a variety of activities including improvements to streamline regulatory processes and enhance the department’s internal capacity to meaningfully consult and engage with First Nations and Métis communities.” The $5 million investment is in addition to the renewed $10 million, three-year Mining and Mineral Development Fund agreement with the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce to support the mineral sector supply chain.

The future
As the need for critical minerals around the world increases, so do the opportunities for mining. Manitoba’s minerals present major opportunity for the sector, the province and the country. With these vital commodities outside our front door, now is the time to make the most of them.

Snow Lake Lithium is developing the world’s first all-electric lithium mine in Northern Manitoba and signed a memorandum of understanding with LG Energy Solutions in September. The agreement will see the two companies explore the opportunity to create one of Canada’s first lithium hydroxide processing plants at CentrePort in Winnipeg. Under the terms of the agreement, Snow Lake Lithium will supply LGES with lithium over a 10-year period once Snow Lake’s lithium production starts in 2025.

References
1,2Critical Minerals, The Mining Association of Canada, mining.ca/our-focus/critical-minerals/
3Canada Announces Critical Minerals List, Natural Resources Canada, canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2021/03/canada-announces-critical-minerals-list.html
4Canada and U.S. Finalize Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, Natural Resources Canada, canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2020/01/canada-and-us-finalize-joint-action-plan-on-critical-minerals-collaboration.html
5,6Minerals and Metals Facts, Natural Resources Canada, nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/minerals-mining/minerals-metals-facts/rare-earth-elements-facts/20522
7,8Canada-US Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, Natural Resources Canada, saskmining.ca/ckfinder/userfiles/files/Plenary%20Session%201%20Update%20on%20Canada-US%20Action%20Plan%20(Hilary%20Morgan).pdf
9Manitoba Critical Minerals, Natural Resources and Northern Development, Government of Manitoba, https://www.manitoba.ca/iem/geo/commodity/files/comm_criticalminerals.pdf
10,11Introducing the Province of Manitoba’s Critical Minerals Initiatives, International Trade Administration, https://www.trade.gov/featuring-province-manitobas-critical-minerals-initiatives-webinar

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