Mining is essential to low-carbon transition


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WHAT do the green technologies essential to getting us to net-zero, such as solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear energy and electric car batteries, all have in common? A dependence on metals, like nickel, iron, cobalt, uranium, zinc and copper, to function.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/09/2021 (488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WHAT do the green technologies essential to getting us to net-zero, such as solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear energy and electric car batteries, all have in common? A dependence on metals, like nickel, iron, cobalt, uranium, zinc and copper, to function.

The question is not whether we require minerals and metals to reach our climate goals, but rather if Canada will become the supplier the world needs.

As a recognized global leader in responsible mineral production, and with markets and consumers increasingly demanding cleaner and greener materials at every stage of the supply-chain for the products they consume, Canada is well placed to become the supplier of choice for these critical inputs.

With 82 per cent of our electricity generation coming from non-GHG emitting sources, Canada produces some of the lowest carbon intensity mineral and metal products anywhere in the world, and can and should play a much more significant role in providing the materials the world needs to get to net-zero.

Manitoba’s mining sector is a key contributor to Canada’s leadership in this space. The mining industry is one of the largest primary-resource industries of Manitoba’s economy, and in 2020 its minerals and metals sector contributed $1.3 billion dollars in GDP to the economy and accounted for more than 11,000 jobs.

Vale’s nickel operation in Thompson and Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s copper and zinc mines in Flin Flon and Snow Lake are just two examples of leading Canadian mining companies operating in the province that are providing the raw materials to literally piece together the tech that will lower our GHG footprint.

Our leadership in sustainably producing the materials is undeniable, but there are other major reasons beyond climate change for Canada to increase its production of critical minerals. One reason revolves around the increasing geopolitical uncertainty that has magnified the precariousness of existing sources of critical minerals, which are vital in telecommunications, health care, computing and clean technologies.

Recently, governments across the globe have started assessing the vulnerability of their respective economies to supply shocks for critical minerals: minerals and metals that they cannot source in sufficient volume, or at all, from within their borders, but on which the proper functioning of their economies are dependent.

Elevated security-of-supply concerns have caused Canada’s allies, including the U.S., Europe and Japan, to re-evaluate and take action to reduce their exposure to the risk of supply shocks that can have major impacts on their broader economies. They are looking to Canada to be a reliable, responsible and trusted source in an increasingly uncertain world.

The global pandemic has brought the security-of-supply vulnerabilities into sharp focus for many countries, including Canada, and combined these trends have accelerated the desire of Canadians to source and produce locally, with greater self-reliance. By providing support specifically for mining electrification, clearer and more effective permitting processes and incentives for the discovery of new critical mineral and metal deposits, Canada would clearly signal to the world that it is committed to being a global leader in this space.

Achieving success for Canada in the critical minerals space has multi-level, multi-partisan support. Last spring, the federal government announced its official critical minerals list and the governments of Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario are all moving forward in supporting critical mineral projects. With Manitoba producing 37 per cent of Canada’s zinc and significant amounts of nickel and copper, the province is well placed to also play a leading role in providing the materials needed for a greener future.

There is no question the global climate will benefit from goods and technologies produced with low-carbon Canadian materials. Whether for domestic or international production — and ideally both — one of the greatest climate actions Canada can take in support of Paris Accord objectives is to maximize domestic production of low-carbon metals and materials needed to meet projected clean-technology demand.

It’s time for Canada to be ambitious and seize the moment. With our leadership in sustainable mining standards and with targeted government support, Canada’s mining industry can provide the responsibly sourced minerals vital to getting the world to net-zero.

Pierre Gratton is president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada.

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