Lithium carbonate is an essential mineral for the electrification of transportation and the energy transition.
So far, British Columbia has identified 16 critical minerals including copper, lithium, cobalt, nickel and molybdenum. They are essential in building digital technologies, clean technologies and telecommunications. They are also used in the health field.
These minerals are used in the construction of electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, cell phones and medical imaging devices.
If British Columbia relies heavily on collaboration with First Nations, it also puts forward its environmental standards and the use of BC Hydro to sell electricity to mining companies.
According to Scott Dunbar, head of the mining engineering department at the University of British Columbia, the province's environmental requirements are among the highest in Canada and the world.
On the other hand, the impact of the exploitation of critical minerals on the environment remains an issue.
Just take as an example the rupture of the settling pond at the Mount Polley mine in 2014, which caused the largest tailings spill in Canada.
First, critical minerals are not renewable. British Columbia must therefore develop a recycling strategy in order to reuse minerals.
Mining also produces different forms of waste that must be treated to avoid contamination of soil, air and waterways. Mine tailings management is being done, but it is very expensive, recalls Mr. Dunbar.
Waste management must then be done from the design of a mining project until the closure of the mines. The challenge over the coming years will be the next generation who specialize in this field. Here at the University of British Columbia, we only have about 27 students, he adds.
It's an industry that has a bad reputation, so we recruit fewer young people to university. Going in search of critical minerals is a risky bet. Exploration and exploitation are expensive. Success is not guaranteed.
A quote from Scott Dunbar, Head of Mining Engineering, University of British Columbia
But the risk is worth it, according to Scott Dunbar. The Eby government is trying to offer stability to mining companies, because the economic benefits could amount to billions of dollars. Critical minerals are also at the center of the fight against climate change, he concludes.
- Amélia MachHour (View profile)Amélia MachHourFollow