The world cannot allow Russia and China to dominate important mineral markets: Wilkinson

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson argues this week that the world is trying to significantly increase production of important minerals, so the strategic mistake of allowing Russia to dominate the world with oil and gas cannot be repeated. did.

Demand for key minerals and metals such as lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt and copper is exploding as demand for everything from smartphones and laptops to wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles grows. ..

“Simply put, there is no energy conversion without important minerals, which is why the resilience of critical mineral supply chains is increasingly a priority for developed countries,” Wilkinson said. We announced this in the preface to the draft mineral strategy. week.

In an interview with the Canadian press, Wilkinson said resilience would only come if Western countries did not allow the geographical concentration of mineral production in unreliable countries.

“We have the absolute requirements of these minerals and do not always share our views on world affairs, sometimes demonstrating the ability to use some control of these resources as weapons. It’s not a very good strategy if you depend on your country, “he said.

“In the current situation, China and Russia are the first and second largest producers and processors of many of these minerals, so in a democratic world we need to secure a safe and stable source. I think there is an understanding that there is. “

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe faces an oil and gas crisis as it seeks to free itself from Russia’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels without easy alternative resources. According to Wilkinson, this is a call to awaken Western democracy in the important mineral sector.

He said “a new reality for all of us” when it comes to important mineral supply chains: “Where do these minerals actually come from, and in fact collaborate with other democracies?” We need to consider ways to ensure safety. ” supply. “

Today, China is the world’s largest player of important minerals. Canada is the world’s largest producer of half of the 31 minerals and metals that Canada lists as important to the economy.

Each country has a slightly different list and definition of important minerals, but usually they have no alternatives, limited supply, are economically important, and are increasingly focused on both extraction and processing. It is a substance that is.

Russia is one of the three largest suppliers of palladium, scandium and titanium, producing one-tenth of the world’s nickel and 6% of aluminum.

Canada’s key mineral strategy proposal focuses on six minerals and metals that the federal government has determined to have the greatest potential for economic growth and employment opportunities. Lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and rare earth elements.

Canada does not currently produce lithium or rare earth elements (a group of 15 elements classified together), but has reserves of both. In 2021, Canada produced 1 percent of the world’s graphite supply, 5 percent of nickel, 2.5 percent of cobalt, and 2.8 percent of copper, according to the US Geological Survey.

Russia is slightly ahead of Canada except for lithium, but it also does not produce lithium. China is ahead in everything but nickel, accounting for 60 percent of the world’s rare earth elements, 82 percent of graphite, 14 percent of lithium, 9 percent of copper and 4 percent of nickel.

Countries like Canada have a lot of space to move up their supply chains, and both the World Bank and the International Energy Agency predict that demand for important minerals and metals will increase by 500% by 2050. ..

Wilkinson said Canada’s final key mineral strategy will be announced in the fall, but the government has already budgeted $ 4 billion for it. Funding for a strategy that hasn’t been completed is not a normal practice, Wilkinson said, but the government knew it couldn’t wait to get it.

Expansion of production is an important part of the plan, including efforts to speed up the approval of new exploration and production projects, especially with a federal review process by the Canadian Impact Assessment Agency.

“We need to find a way to accelerate our ability to get things done,” Wilkinson said.

According to Wilkinson, infrastructure also has $ 1.5 billion, given that many of the minerals and metals are in hard-to-find areas of the country.

Mia Loveson

Canadian press


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