Canada to hasten permitting for critical minerals mines


Canada will look to quickly ramp up production of critical minerals that are vital to its transition away from climate-harming fossil fuels, according to a new strategy unveiled Friday.

The 58-page document notes that Canada is home to vast untapped deposits of lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and rare earth elements.

But under a current framework, it adds, it can take from five to 25 years to get new mines approved and operational.

With global demand set to soar and China controlling much of existing supplies, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said it is paramount for Canada and its allies "to establish and maintain resilient critical minerals value chains."

The new strategy, he added, "sets out a course for Canada to become a global supplier of choice for critical minerals and the clean digital technologies they enable."

Critical minerals are used, for example, in electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and semiconductors.

They are "the building blocks for the green and digital economy. There is no energy transition without critical minerals," says the strategy document.

New mine proposals typically undergo a patchwork of rigorous environmental review and permitting process. Wilkinson vowed to streamline that process, including eliminating duplicate reviews at both the federal and provincial levels.

"We recognize that, although responsible regulations are vital, complex regulatory and permitting processes can hinder the economic competitiveness of the sector and increase investment risk for proponents," says the document.

The new strategy is not backed by any new funding, but in its 2022 budget, the federal government earmarked Can$3.8 billion (US$2.8 billion) over eight years for the sector -- including a 30 percent tax credit to spur exploration.

Ottawa also acknowledges in the document the need for new infrastructure such as roads and ports in order to access and exploit the deposits.

To counter China's supremacy in critical minerals, Canada, the United States and its allies have committed to boosting extraction, processing and recycling of critical minerals.

In late October, Canada also tightened its investment rules to make it more difficult for foreign state-owned companies to buy into its critical minerals sector, following a backlash over Chinese investments in Canada.

Such deals, the government said at the time, would only be approved on "an exceptional basis."

It has also recently ordered three Chinese resources companies to divest their stakes in Canadian critical minerals firms.


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