Ottawa OKs lithium mine project as Trudeau visits rare earth elements plant

Click to play video: 'Canada’s shift to greener energy faces long road'
Canada’s shift to greener energy faces long road
WATCH: Ottawa has approved an environmental assessment for a lithium mining project in Quebec, as Canada looks to grow its presence in the critical mineral space and shift towards clean energy. Mackenzie Gray looks at how Canada wants to gain a footing in the race for rare earth element production, and how there's still a long road to shifting the country's energy priorities. – Jan 16, 2023

Ottawa on Monday approved an environmental assessment for a lithium mine project in Quebec that will produce 5,480 tonnes of ore per day once completed amid a growing global push to secure supplies of critical minerals.

The James Bay Lithium Mine Project, which is located about 100 kilometres east of James Bay in the Eastmain Cree Community in Quebec, will produce lithium — a key ingredient in clean technology like electric vehicle batteries and solar panels, the government said Monday.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa plans to speed up regulatory approval for critical minerals'
Ottawa plans to speed up regulatory approval for critical minerals

Lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and the group of 17 metals and minerals known as rare earth elements are being prioritized for investments in exploration, production and processing as part of Canada’s critical minerals strategy, announced last month by Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

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“The government is committed to making Canada the global supplier of choice for sustainably and responsibly sourced critical minerals, from exploration and extraction, to manufacturing and recycling, while also fostering mutually beneficial relationships between industry and Indigenous peoples,” said Wilkinson in a news release Monday.

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“Through the recently released critical minerals strategy, we are supporting responsible and sustainable critical mineral development, to create good jobs, lower emissions, and build the low-carbon economy.”

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According to figures provided by the proponent, Galaxy Lithium Canada Inc., the James Bay Lithium Mine Project would require 280 workers during the construction phase and an annual average of 167 workers during the mine’s 15-to-20-year operation.

The James Bay project has been subject to a thorough review process conducted by a joint assessment committee consisting of representatives from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the Cree Nation Government, Ottawa said.

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The project can proceed, subject to oversight throughout its lifecycle. The federal government has laid out 271 legally binding conditions Galaxy Lithium must follow, including measures to protect fish and fish habitat, migratory birds and birds at risk, wetlands, woodland caribou, bats at risk, Cree health and the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Crees.

Critical minerals were also among the issues Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador discussed during their summit last week in Mexico.

In 2020, the World Bank predicted that demand for critical minerals will soar 500 per cent by 2050. Canada is not a commercial producer of rare earth elements, though it does have some of the largest-known deposits.

Trudeau was scheduled to be in Saskatoon on Monday to visit a rare earths element processing plant.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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