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UK APPG Critical Minerals Event: Canada's Critical Minerals Approach

On the 26th May 2021, the Critical Minerals Association (UK) and the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Critical Minerals were delighted to host an event on Canada's Critical Minerals Approach, and welcome:

  • Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque CMG, British High Commissioner to Canada

  • Shawn Tupper, Associate Deputy Minister, Natural Resources Canada

  • Jeff Labonté, Assistant Deputy Minister for Lands and Minerals, Natural Resources Canada

  • Mark Smith, Mining Sector Manager, UK Government Department for International Trade

The event was chaired by Steve Double MP, Chair and Alexander Stafford MP, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Critical Minerals.

'In November last year, the UK government released its Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, with at least six of the goals dependent on a secure supply of ESG-compliant critical minerals. We are honoured to have the panel here discussing Canada’s approach to the issues and opportunities around securing ESG-compliant critical minerals. This event provides an opportunity for both the UK and Canada to engage and discuss areas for cooperation ahead of the G7 Summit 2021, which is taking place in Cornwall later this June.'

- Alexander Stafford MP, Vice Chair, APPG Critical Minerals


Shawn Tupper, Associate Deputy Minister, Natural Resources Canada

In recent years, there has been a shift in the dialogue surrounding Canada’s natural resources from a focus on what is needed to change about the industry in order to be more environmentally sustainable, towards the opportunities the industry holds to meet environmental goals. Due to this shift, we have been increasingly working with natural resources industries as part of a whole-government approach to achieving our environmental goals, and to redefine what our future economy and energy sources will look like in Canada.

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP) is a pan-Canadian strategy developed as a primary policy framework to guide collaboration between federal and provincial/territorial groups, as well as industry participants and other stakeholders. This plan is a key driver to ensure Canada remains a leading mining nation, and reflects today’s realities and concerns regarding society and the environment, including Indigenous Community development and participation.

In 2021, the Government of Canada released Canada’s Critical Minerals List, consisting of 31

minerals that are: i) essential to Canada’s economic security; ii) required for Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy; and iii) a potential sustainable material input source for our international partners. The list provides greater certainty for various stakeholder groups, including investors, territories and international partners. It thus enables targeted policy actions to secure growth opportunities, educate people on Canada’s resource wealth, and address pressure points in critical mineral supply chains.

Canada currently produces 22 of the 31 critical minerals in Canada’s Critical Minerals List, granting us the ability to build globally competitive critical mineral value chains, by capitalising on our advanced technologies, world-class research, manufacturing talent and critical minerals supply. Our value also lies in our responsible mining brand, clean energy supply, transportation infrastructure and access to international markets.

We have made great efforts to engage with our European, American and Asian partners. We all hold similar interests towards investment priorities and making sure we sustain and advance a global market based on rules, standards, transparency and consistency, which will allow countries to compete in supply chain development. This collaboration is crucial, particularly for the critical minerals sector, to secure a sustainable energy future, and to ensure all participating countries in this sector share the same priorities and principles as we do.

Currently, the UK is Canada’s second largest minerals and metals export market. The G7 and COP26 summits provide opportunities for the UK and Canada to collaborate. This collaboration could serve various mutually beneficial outcomes, such as promoting strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards and competitive global markets, improving the resilience of global critical mineral supply chains, encouraging greater circularity initiatives through better recycling practices such as mining value from waste, and collaborating via potential joint research initiatives.

Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque CMG, British High Commissioner to Canada

The relationship between Canada and the UK has no bilateral issues, and in recent years we are now doing far more with Canada than we have ever done in the past, both at a political level and at an operational level in all the key areas. This relationship has been mirrored at the provincial and territorial level as well as the federal level. There is considerable potential for collaboration between the UK and Canada, as we share similar priorities on sustainable and transparent critical mineral mining practices. Unless we work together, there is a risk that the agenda will be set by other nations who may not share these priorities.

Cooperation with like-minded states is not just mutually beneficial, it is crucial in this area. COVID-19 has highlighted that there are weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our supply chains. As of last month, the UK is part of the informal Ottawa Group, chaired by Canada for the future of free trade and trade policy, where issues of sustainable supply chains and supply chain resilience for critical minerals are being discussed.

There is potential for growth in international collaboration between the government, academia and private companies. Canada’s critical mineral resource supply and its reputation as a responsible, transparent and ethical mining nation is important as we approach establishing our own critical mineral supply chains in the future.

The main opportunities for this bilateral partnership are firstly in regulatory diplomacy, by defining issues and standards for the critical minerals industry in the future. Secondly, there are opportunities in research and innovation for matters such as the circular economy and zero-emissions technology. Thirdly, when we begin to negotiate our future free trade agreement with Canada following the end of our current continuity agreement, there will be significant potential to discuss critical minerals, supply chains and environmental practices for this sector.

Jeff Labonté, Assistant Deputy Minister for Lands and Minerals, Natural Resources Canada

Firms with strong ESG practices can work to reach gender parity and inclusivity in the workforce, so that our industry workforce reflects the population fairly. Many producers in Canada have committed to reaching net-zero, aligning operations with governmental climate objectives and environmental priorities. We want critical mineral producing firms to be measured against workforce inclusivity, emissions, and benefits to communities. Strong, national ESG credentials draw foreign and private investment into areas that contribute to the greater economic, social and environmental outcomes that are expected today.

To increase support for rare earth mining and processing, an area of critical minerals where investor enthusiasm can be limited due to barriers to entry, Canada’s approach is to increase research and development into extracting rare earth elements from tailings and other wastes for more economical rare earths extraction and processing. A research programme on this has just been announced, and several advanced-stage research projects exist in Canada in this area. Collaboration between like-minded countries would be beneficial here to ensure responsible operations.

In the midstream, we have seen some reorientation occurring globally. In both the UK and Canada, several older refineries are being expanded, optimised, and repurposed to respond to the growing demand for sustainable and responsible critical mineral products. There is opportunity for collaboration here in the flow between value chains.

Many countries have discussed what needs to be done regarding critical mineral supply chains, but now the discussion is turning to how it can be done. Both the World Bank and the International Energy Agency have drawn attention to the deficit in the current supply of critical minerals and the amount needed in order to meet the rising global demand as countries pursue more ambitious climate change goals and to meet the continued deployment of clean technologies. We must find the right way to develop and process these minerals for a secure and sustainable supply that meets climate objectives.

Article by Phoebe Dawes, MSc Environment & Development, King's College London

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