Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

La British Columbia launches first phase of its critical minerals strategy

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The company Teck Resources operates a copper and molybdenum mine in south-central British Columbia.

  • Amélia MachHour (Consult the profile)Amélia MachHour

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British Columbia has unveiled the first phase of its critical minerals strategy. Made up of around ten measures, it aims to facilitate partnerships with the mining industry and promote collaboration with First Nations.

As this was the case for hydrogen, the province will set up a new office to advance critical mineral projects.

The goal, explains Prime Minister David Eby, is to focus on collaboration from the start to facilitate the granting of exploration or mining permits. There will also be a team that will be strictly dedicated to issuing permits.

The province also plans to provide an atlas with the most recent geoscientific data to industry experts to facilitate mining exploration and mapping.

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Before permits are granted, we will identify our infrastructure, such as roads and the power grid, which will allow us to see if there are any adjustments that need to be made, which will simplify planning , says David Eby.

These are goals that will provide mining companies with stability that will attract investment to British Columbia.

A quote from David Eby, Premier of British Columbia

The province also plans to modernize its Mineral Property Act with the help of First Nations so that they are part of the consultations as soon as a company wishes to explore or exploit critical minerals on their territory.

This objective was imposed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia last September which recognized that the rights of two First Nations had not been respected by the province.

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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.

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