Updates on Quebec plan for critical and strategic minerals
Global net-zero emissions by 2050 targets have Canada’s resource industry re-thinking its long game. Quebec is ramping up mining of its key minerals required to manufacture electric vehicle batteries. The province plans to become a leader in the critical strategic minerals (CSM) mining sector and a leader in the electric vehicle battery manufacturing sector for the North American automotive industry.
In its “Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals 2020-25.” The province identified four policy pillars to promote the development of CSM to encourage investment in the province, meet the growing demand for these mineral resources, and play an active role in the global energy transition.
Since the plan was released in October 2020, several new developments have occurred in the province’s mining industry.
Eric de Montigny, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest (MNRF) says, “MNRF recently announced the launch of a CSM-specific research network aimed at increasing synergies between organizations to develop concrete and accessible solutions for the mining industry more rapidly … to increase geoscientific knowledge in the province, several targeted work campaigns were carried out to better understand the potential of CSM in various regions, namely, Nord-du-Québec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Mauricie and Outaouais.”
Furthermore, de Montigny says since the CSM sector poses technical, environmental, and technological challenges, a specific research focus has been created in the joint research program on sustainable development to encourage MNRF researchers to develop expertise in the development of CSM in Quebec’s geological context.
“To date, five promising projects have been supported under the first call for proposals and will receive funding over three years. The results of the second call for proposals will be announced shortly. Another project under the Quebec plan is the exploration support program which includes funding awarded for six CSM mining exploration projects.”
Quebec already has a well-established mining sector which includes major mining companies that mine for five of the key minerals required in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries.
Top CSM mining companies in Quebec
Graphite, lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese are the five key minerals required to manufacture electric vehicle batteries. Some of the top CSM mining companies in Quebec include Sayona Quebec’s North American Lithium (NAL) which is to restart production in the first half of 2023, Northern Graphite’s Lac-des-Iles graphite producing mine, Canadian Royalties’ Nunavik-Nickel, and Glencore Canada’s Raglan nickel producing mines. Since cobalt is a by-product of nickel mining, it can be produced at nickel mines.
de Montigny also says, “Several graphite, lithium, and nickel mining projects have reached the development stage in the mineral development process.”
Advantages of mining CSM in Quebec
Quebec’s brochure, “Critical and strategic minerals in Quebec: new wealth and business opportunities,” outlines the advantages of mining CSM in its province: an attractive business environment that includes several tax incentives, exploration allowances, access to several types of capital, and technological, and scientific expertise; know-how; specialized equipment manufacturers and suppliers; a skilled workforce; and several applied research centres. The province also has an advantageous geographic location, as it is close to industry and major population pools and access to deep water ports with access to the U.S., European, and Asian markets. Quebec also provides electricity at advantageous prices for mining companies that are connected to its Hydro-Quebec grid.
“The enthusiasm surrounding CSM in Quebec represents major business opportunities for investors as evidenced by the recent announcements made by the government in connection with the development of the battery industry in Quebec. The arrival of GM, Posco Chemical, and BASF is a concrete achievement that shows Quebec has the resources to become a major player in the development of CSM value chains,” says de Montigny.
How mining companies can benefit from the plan
Several government policies that complement each other include the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy, the Sustainable Mobility Plan, the 2030 Energy Policy, and the Battery Sector Development Strategy.
The plan provides targeted support to companies throughout the mineral development cycle from exploration to mining to mineral recycling.
In addition to the launch of a CSM-specific research network that will benefit the entire industry, companies can benefit from new CSM-specific programs such as the 2021-24 mineral exploration support program for CSM; the 2022 research and development support program for CSM extraction, processing, and recycling; the 2022 CSM circular economy research and development support program; and the launch of a CSM-specific focus under the joint research program on sustainable development of the mining sector to support the technological development of innovative processes for the responsible exploitation of CSM.
According to de Montigny, companies may also benefit from an allowance on the development of CSM in the mining tax regime that was announced in the 2021-22 Quebec budget, and an increase in support for the piloting, process demonstration, and transformation phases to develop CSM was also announced during the most recent budget and is expected to be implemented shortly.
Quebec has the largest lithium reserves in Canada and almost half of the lithium projects in the country with 86.34 million tonnes of proven and probable reserves (PPR). The province is the only graphite producer in the country with one active mine, two mine development projects, and eight advanced exploration projects targeting graphite deposits with 62.19 million tonnes of PPR. Quebec currently has two active mines that produce cobalt as a by-product and one mine development project that includes cobalt as a by-product with 1,037.4 million tonnes of PPR.
A recent forecast by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence says at least 384 new mines for graphite, lithium, nickel, and cobalt are required by 2035 to meet the demand for electric vehicle and energy storage batteries, and the demand for lithium-ion batteries is set to grow six-fold by 2032.
The EV battery sector
Quebec’s strategy for the development of the battery sector includes a three-prong approach: leverage its mineral wealth which includes several CSM to produce batteries and strengthen the province’s position as a global supplier of batteries from mining to the manufacture of key components, invest in the local manufacture of electric vehicles, and integrate Quebec into a North American battery recycling supply chain.
Jean-Pierre D’Auteuil is responsible for media relations at Quebec’s public affairs and digital communications department, and he confirmed that some projects have been announced. They include BASF’s intentions to set up a cathode active materials (CAM) plant on the site of the Société du parc industriel et portuaire de Bécancour (SPIPB); the intentions of the Ultium CAM joint venture, formed by General Motors Canada and Posco Chemical, to set up a CAM plant on the SPIPB site, where production will begin in 2025.
Quebec has announced its support for Nemaska Lithium’s project to build a lithium spodumene mine and processing plant to supply a plant in Bécancour specializing in the commercial processing of lithium salt into lithium hydroxide, and Nouveau Monde Graphite will focus on developing anode materials needed in the battery industry. The company intends to operate a graphite mine and mill in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Lanaudière, as well as a primary processing plant in Bécancour.
Once Quebec establishes itself as a leader in the mining of CSM, it then plans to establish itself as a leader in Canada’s electric vehicle manufacturing sector for the nation’s automotive industry.
Quebec is already well-positioned to become a leader in the CSM mining space in terms of mineral resources, technological and scientific expertise, skilled labour, hydroelectricity, and an attractive business environment for mining investment. Quebec plan will help the province become a leader in the mining of CSM and the electric battery sector in Canada and North America, which will help Canada meet global net-zero emissions targets by 2050.