Northwest among targets of ‘critical minerals’ hunt

By Sandi Krasowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Thunder Bay, Ont. — Thunder Bay and surrounding northern Indigenous communities were well represented at the Prospectors and Developers Association 2023 conference in Toronto earlier this month. 

Nearly 24,000 people from 100 different countries gathered for what is called the “world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention.”

Andrew Kane, the natural resource business development manager with the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, attended the event and says anyone in the mining supply, services, finance or exploration field should be there. He also said there was a tremendous showing of companies that came from Thunder Bay and the region. 

“The whole world is looking for lithium — it was front and centre,” Kane said. 

“The world is looking at Thunder Bay, Northwestern Ontario, Ontario and Canada. We are at the forefront of critical minerals in the world.”

Kane said the world has an insatiable demand for Canadian resources with evidence this last week when European automaker Volkswagen Group and its battery company PowerCo announced their intent to establish its first overseas gigafactory for battery cell manufacturing in St. Thomas, in southwestern Ontario in 2027.

“I’ve got to give credit to the (federal) government because they’re saying, ‘Hey, guys, you’re just not going to take our resources and build batteries somewhere in the world. If you want the resources, fine, they’re available, but you’re going to build this here,’” he said. 

“The government is streamlining some really archaic steps in the mining act to allow that to happen. The streamlining is not skipping any steps, it’s getting rid of duplication.”

At least four Australian companies have also embarked upon Thunder Bay and have established offices in the area. 

Green Technology Metals, Ring of Fire Metals, Battery Mineral Resources and Critical Resources Ltd. have joined the local business community as testing, exploration and assessments take place at their mine sites. 

Negotiations and communication with First Nation and Metis communities are also more attainable while working from Thunder Bay. 

Kane said that junior exploration companies are looking for investors, and much of that money is coming from offshore.

“Investors that specifically want to invest in Canada are not only investing in junior exploration companies, they’re buying mines,” he said. “They’re buying our service and supply companies and are opening up offices in Canada. This is a once-in-a-lifetime generational opportunity for critical minerals and Canada is critical minerals rich and a great jurisdiction to work in.”

Kane added that Canada and Northwestern Ontario have a well-educated population, and these global companies see this as an unlimited opportunity. 

Also at the conference, many northern Indigenous communities had “outstanding” representation. 

“The reality is there is not going to be a major industrial development anywhere in Canada that doesn’t involve representation, partnerships and benefits to Indigenous communities,” Kane said. “And it should be so — the goal of our society is about reconciliation now. We need every single person, trained, educated and a part of these projects. For every single Indigenous person that wants to work in the natural resources business, there is a role for them.”