ACCELERATING CRITICAL MINERALS STRATEGIES FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA (2023)
According to the International Energy Agency, up to six times more minerals and metals will be needed by 2040 to accelerate the global energy transitions necessary to meet net zero emission commitments for 2050.
Canada and our allies also recognize that changing geopolitical circumstances including, for example, an increasingly authoritarian posture in China and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, means we will require more domestic critical minerals and metals production. These materials are required to decarbonize further and faster, and to help meet collective defence and security objectives.
The federal government released its Critical Minerals Strategy in late 2022. The BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation is developing its own strategy for the province. For both strategies to be successful, B.C. and the federal government must work together for timely and effective execution of near- and medium-term new mines and mine expansions.
The federal government has a list of 31 minerals considered to be critical with a special focus on six that are considered essential to electric vehicle and battery sectors. Steel-making coal, which is considered a critical material in the European Union, should be added to Canada’s critical minerals list.
B.C. has a generational near-term opportunity as seven new copper, gold and steelmaking coal mines or mine extension projects reach final investment decisions in the next 12-18 months. Together, they represent more than $4 billion in capital expenditures, 6,400 new construction and operating jobs, significant Indigenous partnerships, and a total economic impact of approximately $10 billion.
There are ten other medium-term advanced mine developments which will produce copper, nickel, and other critical minerals. B.C. currently produces about 75 percent of Canada’s copper and has substantial opportunities including the world’s largest unmined niobium deposit outside of Brazil and two world class nickel deposits. All these opportunities will build on B.C.’s existing portfolio of 17 operating mines and two world-class metallurgical operations at Kitimat and Trail.
Apart from B.C. being Canada’s leading producer of copper, less known is the province’s long-standing strengths as a producer of zinc, lead, silver, aluminum, germanium, molybdenum, indium, cadmium, antimony, tellurium, and bismuth among other critical minerals.
B.C. has seven metallurgical coal mines and 10 metal mines. With one exception, all of B.C.’s mines are powered by clean hydroelectricity. B.C.’s mining industry represents the second largest industrial electricity load in the province. The industry’s demand for electricity is set to grow as mines expand, new mines open and mine operator’s switch from diesel haul trucks to electric haul trucks. The expansion of the hydroelectric grid is necessary to increase critical minerals production and ensure B.C.’s mines and smelters continue to have some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
To realize British Columbia’s full critical minerals potential to make a meaningful contribution to global climate action, the provincial and federal governments must work together in three key areas:
- Permitting and authorizations:
B.C. mines and mine developments continue to experience interminable delays with existing approaches to regulatory reviews. The permitting and authorization processes that regulate mining projects are too cumbersome, untimely, and inconsistent with the urgent need to meet the rising demand for B.C.’s minerals and metals.
- Indigenous economic reconciliation:
With the advent of laws in B.C. and federally implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, obtaining free prior and informed consent, and facilitating partnership arrangements with Indigenous nations is fundamental to advancing timely development of Canadian critical mineral resources.
- Enabling conditions to unleash the potential of B.C.’s critical minerals opportunities:
The full potential of B.C.’s mining and smelting industry requites enabling measures to develop the infrastructure necessary to build and operate mines, smelters, and processing facilities in B.C.
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
That the Provincial Government:
- Work closely with the federal government to accelerate the permitting and authorization process for new mines and mine extensions.
- Provide capacity funding and resources to Indigenous communities to support and increase their participation in government-to-government and shared decision-making processes for critical mineral projects.
- Work with the federal government to create a benefits-sharing framework to enables Indigenous communities to gain equity stakes in major mining and related infrastructure projects.
- Work closely with the federal government to expand B.C.’s electrical grid infrastructure to support the electrification and decarbonization of B.C.’s new mines and mine extensions.
 Canadas Critical Mineral List 2021: https://natural-resources.canada.ca/sites/nrcan/files/mineralsmetals/pdf/Critical_Minerals_List_2021-EN.pdf
 Lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements.