New mines in British Columbia could attract $36 billion in investment and $11 billion in tax revenues. Ottawa acknowledges the need to secure critical minerals.
In a world where miners are increasingly focused on securing critical metals essential for clean energy and technology, a recent report sheds light on BC's promising future. The report identifies the prospect of 16 critical-mineral mines, which could attract a staggering $36 billion in investments, create 300,000 person-years of employment, and generate $11 billion in tax revenues.
This independent study, commissioned by the Mining Association of BC (MABC), evaluates the economic impact of 14 proposed critical mineral mines and the extension of two existing mines. Michael Goehring, CEO of MABC, says these 16 projects are currently in advanced stages of development, with some undergoing early regulatory reviews, and others poised to enter the regulatory process in the coming years.
"This is a generational opportunity that must be seized, potentially positioning BC as a leading global supplier of responsibly-produced critical minerals,” said Goehring. “We aim to collaborate with the governments of Canada and BC, First Nations, local governments, and labor to unlock the full potential of critical mineral developments for the benefit of all British Columbians."
Resource World Magazine encapsulated the report's findings with the headline: "$36 Billion in Critical Minerals Investment at Stake in BC."
Several prominent figures weighed in on the matter, emphasizing the need for swift and decisive action:
- “We urge the government to act boldly and quickly to attract investment to our province and see critical minerals mined here.” — Fiona Famulak, president and CEO, B.C. Chamber of Commerce.
- “Now is the time to move forward to maximize the opportunities that critical minerals can provide.” — Keerit Jutla, president and CEO, Association for Mineral Exploration.
- “Many First Nations, including the Williams Lake First Nation, know that mining can have massive economic benefits for BC and for First Nations people.” — Chief Willie Sellers, Williams Lake First Nation..
- “Critical minerals can provide BC with a potential short and long-term economic boost and position the province to be a key player in the global critical minerals market. . . . We hope the BC government does its part in creating a more positive investment environment.” — Laura Jones, president and CEO, Business Council of BC.
- “BC’s critical minerals hold great potential for our mining and smelting sector, and it is vital that government policies ensure the economic benefits and jobs are realized for the benefit of working families and communities around the province.” — Scott Lunny, director, United Steelworkers, District 3.
Additionally, the MABC study also assessed the economic benefits of advancing five proposed precious metal mines, including gold, which are projected to contribute over $29.5 billion in economic impact, create over 96,000 person-years of employment, and generate $5.3 billion in tax revenue over their lifespan.
The International Energy Agency predicts a six-fold increase in global demand for critical minerals by 2040.
However, significant shifts in the copper market have all but erased hopes for a world surplus of copper in 2024. One major reason is the Canadian-owned copper mine in Panama faces closure following a court ruling declaring its concession unconstitutional. This mine currently produces approximately one percent of the world's copper.
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to overturn “a pre-emptive veto” of the proposed Pebble mine that Canadian Northern Dynasty Minerals hoped to build in Alaska. It’s said to be the world's largest undeveloped copper-gold project, and has the support of the Alaska state government.
On a positive note, Taseko's Gibraltar mine, situated 75 km northwest of Williams Lake, BC, reported a 26% increase in copper production in 2023, reaching 123 million pounds, in addition to 369,000 pounds of molybdenum.
Meanwhile, China, already dominant in rare-earth mineral production, controls substantial portions of the world's refined supply of natural graphite, manganese, cobalt, lithium, and copper refining. China continues to aggressively pursue key minerals like lithium and cobalt in Africa, Latin America, and other regions.
Canada boasts 31 critical metals and minerals, with BC alone having 16 of them. The federal government is currently revising its list of critical minerals and is seeking public input on the criteria for inclusion by February 16.
Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal minister of energy and natural resources, acknowledges the importance of securing critical minerals for the energy transition and climate change mitigation.
However, he also acknowledges the need to expedite mine approval processes in Canada. Historically, mines have taken 12-25 years to progress from application to production, resulting in substantial delays and no revenue until production begins. Wilkinson is now targeting a shorter timeline of five to six years.
The hope is that Canada can streamline its processes, seize this generational opportunity, and establish itself as a global leader in responsibly sourced critical minerals while fostering economic growth and environmental sustainability.