As Canadians, we can be very proud of our mining industry. The pioneering efforts by Canadian companies, foreign companies operating in Canada, industry associations and governments at all levels are helping transition the world to a more sustainable future.
Canada’s unmatched commitment to sustainable mining was made especially clear to those who attended PDAC 2022 – the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention – hosted by the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada. The event, celebrating its 90th anniversary, is held annually in Toronto.
At the Canada Day sessions presented by Invest in Canada, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson discussed how unmatched strength in critical minerals will help Canada in the competitive race to net-zero. Minister Wilkinson concluded that through thoughtful and bold action, Canada can leverage its inherent advantages and create a “truly sustainable, prosperous, low-carbon” economy.
Session #1: ESG in Canada’s DNA
The initial panel discussion focused on how TSM – the Towards Sustainable Mining program developed by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) – has set a new standard for ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and reporting in the mining sector. TSM is a Canadian sustainability success story that is currently practiced in 10 major mining countries and is active on every continent.
Panelist Pierre Gratton, CEO of the MAC, stated it plainly: “We were first” in setting global standards, especially at the crucial mining-site level. “For Canada, it’s a point of pride,” he added.
Anita Helene Hall, Secretary General of Norway’s Norsk Bergindustri, said that as the 8th country in the world to sign on to the Canadian-created TSM program, there has been “very positive feedback from industry” in Norway.
Chantal Lavoie, COO at the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) of which Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto is majority shareholder, stated that “TSM is completely aligned with where we want to go as a company. Rio Tinto is fully aligned with TSM. We believe we can play a key role in decarbonizing the industry.”
Session #2: The Minerals Powering the EV Battery Revolution
Despite the current boom times for critical EV battery materials representing what Deshnee Naidoo, EVP, Base Metals for Brazil-based Vale refers to as “a generational opportunity,” all 3 panelists in session #2 agreed on overcoming supply chain challenges.
Philip Gross, CEO of Snow Lake Lithium, considers the challenge the “greatest disconnect in history between supply and demand.” Mr. Gross also believes that “the entire supply chain could be built right here in Canada,” and that “there is literally no better place in the next 30 years than Canada.”
In his closing comments panelist Trent Mell, CEO of Electra Battery Materials, chose to focus on Canada’s superiority in ESG: “We can deliver the best ESG essentials in the world.” Mr. Gross emphasized his company’s plans to build the “first fully-electric lithium mine in the world” before calling for full collaboration to overcome the disconnect between sourcing raw materials and meeting consumer demand. This reinforced Ms. Naidoo’s final thoughts – that there is a pressing need for greater collaboration to build a stable and sustainable EV battery material supply chain here in Canada.
Session #3: Leading the Charge within a Canadian EV Battery Supply Chain
The afternoon’s final session saw an armchair discussion with Dan Blondal, CEO and Founder of Nano One Materials, a clean technology company with an innovative process to produce lithium-ion battery cathode materials.
Asked how the industry has shifted, Mr. Blondal replied by saying, “No one was interested in solving the waste problem or in having a localized supply chain.”
Today, the industry is becoming more intensely interested. Over the course of three weeks in May and June of 2022, Vancouver-based Nano One made significant agreements with major global firms Johnson Matthey, BASF and Rio Tinto.
For a relatively small Canadian company – currently employing 60-plus people in Vancouver and 40-plus people in Québec – it is perhaps an understatement when CEO Blondal states, “We are thinking big.”
Over the course of all three sessions, it becomes evident there is an increased commitment to sustainability on so many different levels in Canada’s mining industry. There is also a greater focus on building more stable and reliable EV battery supply chains. It is becoming increasingly clear that Canada is the place to show the rest of the world what’s possible.
Invest in Canada has a role in this larger story, by actively seeking out and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada from committed global companies. We are finding the best to invest – and Canadians benefit through a more prosperous, more sustainable economy.