Ontario’s pipeline of prospective investments in the electric vehicle and battery supply chains runs to at least $17 billion as global investors continue to look at putting down roots in North America, according to the province’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade.
“We won't win it all, but we sure as hell are going to win a chunk of it,” Vic Fedeli told attendees at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto March 7.
Between retooling projects at assembly plants, a $5 billion battery cell commitment in Windsor, Ont. and other related spending, Fedeli said Ontario has netted $17 billion in industry investment over the past two years, and has “at least that in the pipeline.”
While much of the previous spending was concentrated toward the vehicle assembly end of the industry, the province’s prospects are now moving upstream, Fedeli added. He pointed to companies that produce cathode and anode material, as well as copper foil and separators for batteries as likely to make up a larger portion of the next wave of investment in Ontario.
Fedeli also predicted Ontario would land its first lithium processing plant in the northwestern part of the province soon. Several lithium mining projects are advancing north of both Thunder Bay and Kenora, Ont., and the material will need to be processed locally, he added.
'ALL OF THE RIGHT PIECES'
“We have all of the right pieces in place to make Northern Ontario part of the auto sector for the first time in 100 years.”
Among other assessments taking place, two Ontario-based miners — Avalon Advanced Materials Inc., and Frontier Lithium Inc., — are each developing mines with local processing plants in the region. Avalon is already pursuing sites for a lithium hydroxide plant in Thunder Bay, while Frontier says it is planning a plant in the “Great Lakes Region.”
Minister of Mines George Pirie, meantime, told PDAC attendees that local processing of minerals mined in Ontario will “feed the battery-electric vehicle revolution.”
“We want to combine the mineral endowment of Northern Ontario with the manufacturing might in southern Ontario.”
To extend the recent string of investments in the province to the mining sector, the government introduced legislation March 2 designed to slim down approval timelines for mines.
“If we’re going to secure our minerals, we have to get them out of the ground and we have to create conditions that allow these minerals to be extracted in an efficient and effective way,” Pirie said, noting that past development timelines of up to 15 years are “absolutely too long.”
Among other changes, the proposed amendments to the Mining Act would allow for greater flexibility in how mines can be rehabilitated once closed, as well as add more options for corporate financial assurance payments, which are used to pay mine closure costs, even if a miner runs into financial trouble.
Pirie said the updated act, which is currently working its way through the legislative process, will speed approvals without damaging environmental standards.