Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced a five-year plan on Thursday meant to bolster mining exploration and development in the province.
The 53-page Critical Minerals Strategy lays out actions Ontario could take to “better connect mines in the north with the manufacturing sector in the south, in particular to Ontario-based electric vehicle (EV) and battery manufacturing” and “tap into new and growing markets.”
So-called critical minerals like lithium, nickel, tellurium and cobalt are key components of a growing number of products, including smartphones, electric vehicle batteries and solar panels. The report notes that the majority of certain minerals come from “only a handful of jurisdictions” outside North America.
More than 70 per cent of the world’s cobalt, for example, comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while China mines 82 per cent of global graphite. Notably, Russia provides nine per cent of the world’s nickel and three per cent of its graphite, a supply disrupted by that country’s invasion of Ukraine and consequent sanctions.
“The global supply chain issues that have taken root over the last couple of years and recent geopolitical conflicts demonstrate that, now more than ever, steps must be taken to ensure that we have minerals and advanced materials required to continue transitioning to a more connected, cleaner and technology-drive economy,” the document noted, touting Ontario and its supply of critical minerals as ripe to benefit from global instability affecting other sources.
“When our products reach the market, our trading partners know that Ontario is a jurisdiction with a clean energy grid, high environmental standards, respects [sic] human rights and has top tier conditions for workers who receive competitive wages for their hard work,” wrote Greg Rickford, minister for northern development, mines, natural resources and forestry, in an introductory message.
The strategy consists of six areas of focus, including supporting exploration, creating local supply chains, growing a skilled labour force and “improving” regulatory frameworks. It calls for “strengthening regulatory competitiveness and coordination” to “attract global investment, expand the industry and create new jobs.” There is scant mention of environmental protections or concerns within the section on regulation or the plan itself.
Announced by Premier Doug Ford in Thunder Bay, the strategy is the latest of a slew of plans and announcements regarding transportation, electric vehicle manufacturing and other issues in the lead-up to the province’s June election. It includes $24 million over five years for junior exploration companies and $5 million over two years for a critical minerals innovation fund.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said in a statement that the strategy was “welcome news but should have come years ago.”
The 53-page Critical Minerals Strategy lays out actions Ontario could take to “better connect mines in the north with the manufacturing sector in the south, in particular to Ontario-based electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.” #OnPoli
“But Doug Ford’s hostility to renewable energy and refusal to make EVs more affordable undermines his late-game plan to finally recognize the importance of critical minerals and EV manufacturing,” said Schreiner.