Feb 16, 2022

An effective critical minerals strategy will unlock significant opportunities for Canada, Chamber tells House Industry Committee

On February 15, 2022, the Canadian Chamber’s Senior Director Natural Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, David Billedeau, appeared at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology. In addressing the key issues of the Chamber’s Critical Minerals Council, Billedeau highlighted that the transition to a low-carbon economy hinges on the availability of critical minerals, the opportunity this presents for Canada, and the necessary elements of an effective critical minerals strategy.

David Billedeau’s opening remarks:

Check against delivery.

Mr. Chair and Honourable Members, thank you for the opportunity to attend today’s discussion on critical minerals in Canada.

My name is David Billedeau. I serve as the Senior Director of Natural Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber recently launched its Critical Minerals Council, which is co-chaired by Teck Resources and Toyota Canada – and brings together over 20 members from upstream and downstream corporations, academic institutions, as well as industry and Indigenous associations.

Together, the Council is focused on enhancing touch points between domestic mining and manufacturing companies, economic and environmental ambitions, and industry and Indigenous stakeholders. In so doing, we hope to encourage the sustainable development of critical mineral supply chains in Canada and provide global markets with the resources required to transition to a low carbon future.

According to the International Energy Agency, the average electric vehicle can require six times the amount of minerals as a conventional car – as well as materials like nickel, cobalt, and lithium that a conventional vehicle typically does not require. As another example, wind plants need up to nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant. In sum, the transition to a net zero future hinges on the availability of critical minerals.

Similarly, critical minerals are essential for food security – as the continued production and supply of minerals like potash are vital for crop production and quality.

With increasing demand in mind, the Canadian Chamber believes that an effective critical minerals strategy will unlock significant opportunities for Canada, which I would like to briefly highlight for you today. 

First, growing domestic supply chains will reduce Canadian dependence on imports. According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, China provides more than 85 per cent of the world’s rare earths – and is a primary global supplier of minerals that are essential for digital and green energy infrastructure. Our economic and environmental ambitions should not hinge on importing critical minerals from any one country – particularly when we have abundant reserves here at home. We must develop our supply chains, work with allies to advance shared interests and resiliency, and create domestic strategic mineral stockpiles.

Second, Canada has growing international market opportunities. To match domestic critical mineral production with increasing global demand, it is important to focus attention on facilitating resource development within Canada – where it takes an average of over 15 years to move mining projects from discovery to first production. These lead times will impact Canada’s decarbonization efforts while limiting international market opportunities. Accordingly, we must work with a spectrum of stakeholders to determine how to responsibility expedite development, inclusive of securing venture capital for early-stage projects.

Third, our critical minerals strategy can create transformative economic opportunities that facilitates Indigenous partnerships, reconciliation, and self-determination. Moreover, through collaboration with Indigenous communities, universities, and industry, the Government of Canada has an opportunity to de-risk investments that will address social and physical infrastructure deficits in remote communities.

With these opportunities in mind, we encourage the Government of Canada to deploy a critical minerals strategy that:

  1. Creates a cost competitive business environment with regulatory certainty;
  2. Develops domestic processing capabilities by facilitating new investments, refurbishing existing infrastructure, and partnering with local communities; and,
  3. Provides an accurate critical mineral inventory and forecasts demand over the next 15 years. 

Executing an effective critical minerals strategy is key to reinforcing Canada’s global brand as a secure and sustainable supplier as well as supporting domestic and international low carbon transitions and food security.

Thank you again for your time and consideration. I look forward to your questions.  

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