CALGARY — Mining industry insiders say opportunities for Canada are rising with world demand, technical advances and political support for electric vehicles.
But members of a panel at the online Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada's 2021 convention also say support from government is needed to help the industry find the capital and develop a plan to bring on new mines and processing facilities ahead of competitors around the world.
Liz Lappin, a vice-president with E3 Metals Corp., says demand for minerals critical to making electric vehicle batteries is being boosted by U.S. President Joe Biden's pro-environment agenda, coupled with strong European support and growing interest by North Americans in new models of electric cars and trucks.
Todd Malan, vice-president of corporate relations for international mining giant Rio Tinto, says the country has advantages including abundant natural resources, mining history and expertise, and a good environmental record that's supported by access to non-emitting hydroelectric power.
Mark Travers, CEO of Vale Canada Ltd., says Canada can be a key supplier of minerals such as lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel, required to produce advanced batteries for electric vehicles, but it needs to begin investments now to be competitive with other jurisdictions.
He says building out Canada's mining sector will require partnerships, risk sharing and government support for innovations to make mining and processing more efficient and environmentally benign.
"The challenge is immense ... we need new mines and it hasn't been easy to get new mines in Canada, in particular in the nickel industry but in others as well," he said.
"I think Canada has to think about how some of that subsidy goes to the right direction to make sure we get the value chain in Canada with the mines and the chemistry. A lot of it comes down to policy and subsidies and encouragement."
The Mining Association of Canada has called for a more consistent domestic policy and regulatory environment in the country, with "proactive and bold policy" to position the country for longer-term success.
It said recently that while 2020 saw a modest increase in the value of mining projects planned and under construction in the next decade, the total 10-year projected value of $82 billion is nearly 50 per cent below the 2014 level of $160 billion.