Sudbury, Thunder Bay can help Ottawa’s critical mineral strategy, officials say

By Mia Jensen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Sudbury Star

As the federal government prioritizes critical mineral extraction, local officials are emphasizing the need to take advantage of the opportunities available in Sudbury.

“Mining has always been one of Canada’s economic cornerstones,” said Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe. “Today, this sector matters more than ever. There is a growing global appreciation that a cleaner, net-zero global economy cannot be achieved without mineral extraction, specifically, critical minerals, the building blocks for the future.”

On Friday, the federal government released the full details of its $3.8 billion Critical Minerals Strategy. While Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled the plan in Vancouver, Lapointe and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serre joined local officials at Tom Davies Square to highlight the announcement and its potential benefits for the region.

Wilkinson’s 58-page strategy aims to expand exploration activities to find more mineral deposits; speed up mining projects; advance relations with Indigenous groups, which often own land rights where mineral resources are located; tackle labour shortages; and build secure supply chains with allied nations.

According to Lapointe, Northern Ontario mining cities like Sudbury are well-position to take centre stage as the federal government prioritizes the extraction of critical minerals in its transition to a greener economy.

“Many of those minerals can be found right here in Sudbury,” she said. “Vale’s Copper Cliff Mine is set to strengthen Ontario’s mining-to-manufacturing supply chain for nickel from the north to the south. The Impala Mine, at Lac des Illes near Thunder Bay has a world-class palladium deposit. And Sudbury’s Frontier Lithium could soon become one of the biggest lithium suppliers in North America.”

She added, “We need to keep the momentum going in Northern Ontario and throughout the entire country. We need to act fast. There is fierce competition for these investments, but Canada can move quickly to the front of the line if we take action now.”

Canada is home to 31 minerals that the government considers critical. The 58-page document identifies six priority minerals – lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and rare earth elements – that are critical for the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

The near-$4 billion strategy would cover a range of industrial activities meant to capitalize on opportunities at every stage of the extraction process. This includes funding geoscience, exploration, mineral processing, manufacturing, and recycling applications, as well as supporting research, development, and technological deployment.

The plan’s key initiatives will also include accelerating project approvals and the permitting process, which has previously bogged down projects within the sector.

Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre said he hopes the federal strategy will embrace the opportunities available in the city.

“We are the mining cluster of innovation of the world,” he said. “We are at the top and a lot of mining companies out there that are looking around the world, they see Sudbury as a major city within a mining camp. We’re very unique and we have to take advantage of the uniqueness that we have.”

He added that Sudbury is poised to act as a leader in the transition to green energy.

“There’s no energy transition without a significant scale-up of exploration, extraction, processing, advance manufacturing, and recycling of critical minerals,” he said. “And all of these things are done right here.”

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