Minerals and metals are used to create almost everything around us in some way or another. It's important to understand just where all these goods come from: how they are discovered, extracted, refined and then transformed into products used to improve society and bolster the economy not just in Canada, but across the globe.
The annual Redefining Electrical Metals Conference does just that, providing much-needed perspective on the mining sector and how it overwhelmingly contributes to our modern-day lives.
Canada Action was proud to partake in the Redefining Electrical Metals Conference of 2021. During the event, Cody Battershill, CEO and Founder of Canada Action, discussed the importance of the mining sector and how Canada has a grand opportunity to be a global supplier of choice for dozens of minerals and metals essential to the energy transition.
Canada's Mining Opportunity
"Hi everyone – thank you all for joining me today for the 2021 Redefining Electrical Metals Conference. My name is Cody Battershill, and I'm the founder and CEO of Canada Action Coalition.
In the spirit of reconciliation, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we live, work, and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Metis nation and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.
As I'm sure you're all aware, everything we do is made possible by natural resources, minerals and metals included. Whether this be producing toothpaste, lifesaving medical equipment, batteries within the computers you're currently watching this on, electric vehicle components or renewable energy technology – we need our vital mining sector.
Mining is one of Canada's most important economic sectors and a major job creator. In 2019, the minerals and metals sector directly employed 392,000 individuals and indirectly employed an additional 327,000, for a total of 719,000 individuals.
These are high-paying careers that offer families across Canada prosperity. This can be seen through the average annual total compensation per job in the mining industry being $126,000, twice the all-industry average of $63,000.
The industry employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians across our country; it's the largest private-sector employer of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
As a matter of fact, more than 450 agreements between mining companies and Indigenous communities have been made in Canada since 2000, and Indigenous businesses are 40x more likely to be involved in the extractive sectors than the average Canadian business. Furthermore, from 2009 to 2016, the mineral and mining sector comprised 19.6% of the Northwest Territories GDP and 21.1% of Nunavut's GDP.
Canada should be the choice supplier of precious minerals and metal as our mining industry has a world-class record on ESG performance that every Canadian should be proud of.
Proof of this can be seen through the Mining Association of Canada's Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) standard. It is a globally recognized sustainability program that supports mining companies in managing key environmental and social risks.
TSM was the first mining sustainability standard in the world to implement compulsory site-level assessments – that's leadership. Countries that have adopted TSM standards developed by Canada thus far include Finland, Norway, Argentina, Australia, Botswana, the Philippines, Brazil, Norway and Spain.
There are 60 minerals and metals produced across Canada at almost 200 mines and 6,500 sand, gravel, and stone quarries, making us one of the most diversified mining nations. Canada is also the only Western nation that has an abundance of cobalt, graphite, lithium, and nickel, all of which are essential to creating the batteries found in electric vehicles and green energy.
These are essential materials. Graphite is an important input for batteries, electric motors, steel making, solar panels, and many more uses. Niobium is an important input for alloys, electronic circuits, MRI machines and advanced magnets. Platinum Group Metals are an important input for electronics, healthcare, computers, catalytic converters, and other uses. Indium is an important part of solar panels, microchips, LCD screens, medical diagnostics, electrical transistors, alloys, and other uses. We all use these products on an everyday basis. They are essential to our prosperity and quality of life.
The mining sector also plays an essential role in the transition to a low-carbon future through developing “green” energy. As we discuss green energy and a transition, I feel it’s important that we note that all energy-producing machinery must be fabricated from materials extracted from the earth.
This is a simple consideration at face value, but it is essential to keep in mind that green energy systems require the continual mining and processing of millions of tons of primary materials and the disposal of hardware that ultimately wears out.
For example, a 5-megawatt turbine, the steel alone averages 150 metric tons for the reinforced concrete foundations, 250 metric tons for the rotor hubs and housings and 500 metric tons for the towers; that’s a lot of metals and minerals needed and that’s just the steel.
Although windmills generate green energy, their production, installation, and maintenance remain dependent on natural resources. Coke for iron-ore smelting, coal and petroleum coke to fuel cement kilns, naphtha and natural gas as feedstock and fuel for the synthesis of plastics and the making of fibreglass, diesel fuel for ships, trucks, and construction machinery, and oil for lubricants – all of which have no real alternatives.
Compared to hydrocarbon systems, “green” systems on average see a 10-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy. Furthermore, an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired power plant.
This means that any significant expansion of green energy, and a transition, will require major investment within the global mining industry, and Canada is the clear choice of investment.
To put this into perspective, according to a Wood Mackenzie analyst, mining companies need to invest nearly $1.7 trillion in the next 15 years to help supply enough copper, cobalt, nickel, and other metals needed for the shift to a low carbon world.
The International Energy Agency predicts there will be 125 million electric vehicles in use worldwide by 2030 under existing government energy and climate policies.
Let’s say there were bolder climate programmes and emission reduction targets and mass adoption of electric vehicles with 500 million electric cars on the road, half of the current number of cars on the road. This would require mining sufficient energy minerals to build batteries for about 3 trillion smartphones. That’s equal to over 2,000 years of mining and production.
Electric vehicles will also require about 500 percent more critical minerals per vehicle overall compared to conventional cars. From this, the IEA concluded that current plans for electric cars, wind and solar will require up to a 4,000 percent increase in global mine output for the necessary minerals.
What many don’t realize when they call for a “just transition”, and rapid electrification is the transition from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive energy system. Since 2010, the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50 percent, as the share of renewables has risen – 10 percent.
The IEA states that with a global energy transition like the one President Biden envisions, demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals would increase heavily, rising by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700%, respectively, by 2040.
Of the 17,192,604,721 metric tonnes of mineral production in 2017, 10,551,865,134 came from countries deemed politically unstable. As Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s Secretary-General, said to the Nordic EV Summit — climate change should not be tackled at the expense of human rights. “Without radical changes, the batteries which power green vehicles will continue to be tainted by human rights abuses,” he stated.
Currently, more than half the world’s cobalt comes from the southern Democratic Republic of Congo. Roughly 20 percent of the country’s cobalt output comes from independent miners as young as seven who were documented digging by hand and using basic tools while earning as little as $1 a day. Some workers reported suffering chronic lung disease from exposure to cobalt dust.
Although deposits of rare earth metals exist all over the world, most of both mining and refining occur in China. With 70 percent of global exports, China is a dominant player in the global rare minerals industry. Approximately 88 percent of China’s rare earth exports in 2019 went to just five countries, with the US being number two.
Canada is committed to building the necessary supply of critical minerals to help fuel North America’s low-carbon future. We have the people, the know-how, and the track record to do the job. We need to all work together to ensure that Canada is the choice investment destination for electrical metals now and in the coming decades."
Thank you so much!
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