On March 17th, the Ontario Government launched its Critical Minerals Strategy, a five-year plan to position Ontario as a global leader in supplying critical minerals. The strategy is in concert with other government initiatives, such as Driving Prosperity: The Future of Ontario’s Automotive Sector and A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. Taken together, these initiatives are trying to ensure that Ontario can grow advanced manufacturing supply chains, including those related to electric vehicle production, and create sustainable economic development opportunities.
The Critical Minerals Strategy identifies more than 30 different minerals including cobalt, nickel, lithium and graphite that are in high demand. With its rich mineral resources, Ontario has the potential to help fill the global supply gap, which is anticipated to increase as the demand for products with critical minerals as inputs grows. This includes products like -smartphones, batteries for electric vehicles, pharmaceutical, solar cells and advanced manufacturing technologies.
OSPE had the opportunity to provide comments during the Government’s consultation period regarding this strategy. OSPE’s Critical Minerals Working Group provided several recommendations. Our full response can be found here.
OSPE is glad the Government of Ontario listened to engineering recommendations when developing their Critical Minerals Strategy. Engineers are key for this sector to flourish. OSPE is particularly pleased to see that the government is committed in investing in research and development, as well as developing programs that focus on the alternative use of “waste streams” and “post closure” assets to support environmental stewardship and sustainability.
The strategy is comprised of six pillars, with the following government actions:
- Enhancing geoscience information and supporting critical minerals exploration
- introducing a modernized digital platform for mineral exploration companies to access Ontario’s critical minerals geoscience information from anywhere in the world;
- identifying, analyzing and quantifying critical minerals and gold deposits through enhanced geochemical analysis techniques and a mine waste sampling initiative — this will help identify critical minerals content in tailings and waste rock, which can support redevelopment of historic deposits;
- supporting the Government of Canada’s efforts to expand the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (METC) for materials on Canada’s critical minerals list and making continued, targeted investments to encourage the development of critical minerals mining projects.
- Growing domestic processing and creating resilient local supply chains
- investing in Northern Ontario’s development of battery minerals and providing supports for critical minerals processing through existing government programs, including those offered through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC);
- investing $250,000 to support the development of two new battery production lines at the Electra Battery Materials Corporation’s future Battery Materials Park near Cobalt. The new production lines would be the first of their kind in Ontario;
- supporting mining companies by providing an affordable and reliable supply of clean electricity for years to come.
- Improving the regulatory framework to make the mining industry more globally competitive
- considering the development of regulatory pathways specifically for lower impact mining projects
- increasing transparency in decision-making criteria by making additional public-facing guidance available to assist proponents in navigating through regulatory processes;
- providing project management support and inter-ministry coordination for regulatory approvals for critical minerals projects in Ontario.
- Investing in innovation, research and development
- improving mineral recovery from electric vehicle batteries, including black mass recycling and other manufacturing wastes;
- supporting the recovery of residual metals and minerals from tailings and other mine wastes;
- exploring how to support deep mining to facilitate exploration and production at depth
- prioritizing research projects related to critical minerals and electric vehicle batteries to qualify for the Ministry of Colleges and Universities’ (MCU) Ontario Research Fund: Research Excellence;
- exploring how to support R&D and access to and/or development of intellectual property related to critical minerals processing for high value applications including electric vehicle batteries;
- exploring new options for incentivizing critical minerals research and development and connecting the critical minerals sector with intellectual property-related support services.
- Building economic development opportunities with Indigenous partners
- ensuring Ontario’s current funding programs include supporting critical minerals education and capacity building within Indigenous communities;
- promoting programs that support Indigenous-owned business, workforce and skills development;
- developing educational tools in collaboration with Indigenous partners to foster a better understanding of critical minerals opportunities and benefits;
- strengthening relationship processes with Indigenous partners to ensure a continued critical minerals dialogue;
- enhancing opportunities for Indigenous communities to prosper from resource development and supply chain opportunities.
- Growing labour supply and developing a skilled labour force
- supporting local employment development and human resource planning through financial assistance available to local communities, sector groups, employee/employer associations and employers;
- partnering with the Chiefs of Ontario to establish a First Nations Economic Growth and Prosperity Table to support economic advancement and well-being for First Nation communities;
- working with the Government of Canada to maintain pathways for foreign workers and international students to apply for permanent residence including through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP).