Credit to Tom Fisk
This article marks the first of a series that discusses the recently released Critical Minerals Strategies from Canada and Australia. These strategies outline each country’s vision to support and sustainably grow their critical mineral sectors. Both countries have vast mineral reserves – combined, Canada and Australia hold 22% of the world’s cobalt reserves – positioning them to be leaders (and competitors) in shaping sustainable and resilient supply chains as the world transitions to clean energy technology.
In this series, we will examine and compare the key focus areas of each country’s respective critical minerals strategy. Each has established six strategic focus areas, which are outlined in the table below:
Key Strategic Focus Areas
There are clear parallels and commonalities between both strategies, with a strong theme of expanding capabilities across the entire critical minerals value chain. The strategies share several objectives, such as enhancing international partnerships, promoting climate action and global decarbonization efforts, supporting economic growth and job creation, and advancing engagement with Indigenous peoples. This first article provides an overview of critical minerals and their significance, and highlights the investments made by both nations. Further installments will discuss how each country is approaching partnerships, regulatory hurdles, and workforce shortages.
What Are Critical Minerals?
“A battery supply chain in Canada is estimated to directly contribute between $5.7 billion to $24 billion in GDP by 2030 annually, supporting between 18,500 and 81,000 direct jobs, depending on how quickly and ambitiously Canadian governments act. These figures grow to between $15 billion and $59 billion in annual GDP contributions, and 79,000 and 333,000 jobs, when indirect and induced activities and jobs are included.”
The Five Pillars of the Critical Mineral Value Chain
The Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy provides a definition of the critical minerals value chain. It includes five segments: geoscience and exploration; mineral extraction; intermediate processing; advanced manufacturing; and recycling. The value chain is illustrated in Canada’s Strategy as follows:
The critical minerals value chain as described by Canada
Where Are They Investing?
The most notable investments in Canada’s strategy are shows in the following infographic:
Mixed Hydroxide Precipitate (MHP) Integration into Sherritt’s Fort Saskatchewan Metals Refinery – $795,524 for piloting the use of MHP in the production of high-purity nickel and cobalt metals
Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) Pilot Project – $3.545M for supporting the development of a commercial plant that will extract battery-grade lithium
Direct Lithium Extraction Process Optimization – $1.074M for demonstrating innovative lithium extraction process from subsurface brines
Demonstration Plant (Search Minerals) – $5M for piloting extraction processes that aim to produce individual rare earth oxides
Battery Material Supply Chain Integration – $724,871 for demonstrating supply chain integration of battery-grade nickel sulphate and cobalt hydroxide
Recycling and Production of Rare Earth Oxides from Permanent Magnet Scrap – $3M for demonstration of REE recycling process from magnet scrap
The $1.5B added to the Strategic Innovation Fund brings the fund to a total of $6.9B across 110 projects. The current investment priorities are in clean technologies, critical minerals, and industrial transformation. Funded projects include:
$700M for the Volkswagen Electric Vehicle Battery Plant
$47M to Advance Canada’s EV Battery Production
$36M to Advance Canada’s Semiconductor Industry
$25M for Building a Clean Future Through Renewable Energy
Based on these investments, Canada is making meaningful efforts in several areas, including: accelerating exploration activities and building its critical minerals project pipeline; expanding its downstream capabilities in manufacturing, processing, and recycling; streamlining regulatory processes; developing enabling clean energy and transportation infrastructure; advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples; and promoting partnerships. These investment areas show positive alignment with Canada’s stated priorities. Although Canada’s strategy outlined initiatives and key actions to grow its workforce, no meaningful investments in this area were announced. The mining industry as a whole faces an unprecedented skills shortage, with Canada being no exception. Forecasts show that Canada will need up to 113,000 new workers by 2030 to meet the growing critical minerals demand. These workforce and skills challenges will be addressed in a later installment – stay tuned.
Now, looking at Australia, its most notable strategic investments are summarized in the following infographic:
Some of the most outstanding projects and collaborations generated by these strategic investments include:
The $225M of total investment into the Exploring for the Future Program which supports exploration activities and precompetitive geoscience data. Its current projects include three national drilling initiatives, geological mapping projects, and an evaluation of Australia’s future energy resources, among many other projects.
The $100M investment through the Critical Minerals Development Program into several Australian critical mineral industry entities. The list of recipients consists of mostly midstream processing and refining projects, including:
Australian Energy Storage Solutions Pty Ltd received $5.46M to pilot a precursor cathode active material manufacturing plant
Magnium Australia Pty Ltd received $6.25M to pilot a magnesium refinery plant and commercialize its patented magnesium metal extraction technology
Australian Strategic Materials Ltd received $6.5M to support the development of its Dubbo Project, a mining, separation, and production facility for certain REEs, along with other critical minerals
The $50.5M investment to establish the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub, which aims to commercialize critical minerals R&D and support strategic international collaboration and science diplomacy. Its current research projects include: a criticality and opportunity assessment to help guide strategic investment and policy-making; the development of processing routes for high-purity silica production from Australian resources; and the development of pathways for Australian High Purity Alumina (HPA).
The $2B of total investment through the Critical Minerals Facility (CMF) to support strategic critical mineral projects, including:
$1.25B to Iluka Resources to develop its Eneabba Rare Earths Refinery project
$185M to Renascor Resources to develop its vertically integrated mine and manufacture Siviour Graphite Project
$40M to EcoGraf to develop a battery anode material facility
The $500M added to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to support downstream critical minerals processing projects. To date, the NAIF has committed $4 billion to help finance projects in northern Australia across several industries. Its critical-minerals-related projects include:
$220M to develop the Yangibana Rare Earths Project
$140M to develop the Lake Wells Sulphate of Potash Project
$125M for the expansion of Pilbara Minerals Limited’s Pilgangoora Operation
The $3.1B Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System prioritizes clean energy employment and offers financial and training support to eligible employers;
The $504M investment to support the Jobs and Skills Councils in identifying sector-specific skill requirements, developing training products, and supporting collaboration between industry and training providers;
The 9-year $105.1M New Energy Apprenticeship and New Energy Skills programs will support 10,000 eligible apprentices with the cost of living and provide industry-based mentoring, peer support, and networking opportunities;
The 12-Month $1B Skills Agreement will deploy training placements in priority areas of the economy including the manufacturing and technology sectors. Another $400M will be added in 2024 through the National Skills Agreement.
Australia’s strategy provides a much more extensive overview of its investment initiatives. Like Canada, Australia is deploying meaningful capital toward their stated priority areas, such as exploration, advancement of downstream capabilities, and development of enabling infrastructure. Australia’s strategy gives more detail as to how this capital will be distributed; it’s relying heavily on programs and pathways with proven track records in funding and supporting projects. In contrast to Canada, Australia has outlined a handful of programs and initiatives backed by substantial investments to address its workforce challenges.
In summary, Canada and Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategies share their visions and commitment to nurturing sustainable and resilient critical mineral sectors. Both countries recognize the significance of critical minerals in the global transition to clean energy technology and acknowledge the need for expanding capabilities across the entire value chain. Evaluating each country’s investment initiatives highlighted that both countries are focused on supporting key areas such as exploration, downstream capabilities, strategic partnerships, economic growth and job creation, and Indigenous engagement. Canada’s overall strategic approach provides more clarity across the entire critical minerals value chain, while Australia’s strategy is backed by more substantial investments and proven programs, particularly in addressing workforce challenges. The remaining articles in this series will address downstream activities, regulatory hurdles, strategic partnerships, and workforce challenges in more detail – stay tuned for our future installments in this series.
About The Author
Drew Hamilton is a recent engineering graduate from Carleton University, specializing in sustainable and renewable energy. With a strong educational background in this field, Drew is passionate about continuous learning and dedicated to building a sustainable future.
Currently serving as an Energy Systems Analyst at Zero Nexus, Drew is deeply committed to understanding the intricacies of the mining industry’s challenges and contributing to the wider clean energy transition. Through this role, he aims to explore innovative solutions and pave the way for sustainable practices within the mining sector.
Join Drew as he explores the intriguing challenges and opportunities at the intersection between decarbonization, renewable energy, and the mining industry. With his insights and commitment, Drew aims to inform and inspire readers, fostering dialogue towards a cleaner, more sustainable world.
About Zero Nexus
Zero Nexus is at the forefront of the electrification of challenging industries. With a focus on hard-to-electrify sectors, their dedicated team of experts possesses a wealth of knowledge in materials, powertrains, controls, and broader energy system design. Through effective partnerships and the deployment of near-market-ready technologies, Zero Nexus supports critical mineral producers, technology start-ups, and original equipment manufacturers in adopting and integrating cutting-edge solutions.
Join Zero Nexus on their journey as they pave the way toward a sustainable future. As the nexus between various zero targets—zero emissions, zero harm, and zero entry—their commitment and ambition drive their work. With exciting opportunities on the horizon, Zero Nexus invites readers to connect and be part of the transformational path toward a greener and more efficient industrial landscape.