With one of the world’s largest concentrations of Class I nickel for use in battery electric vehicles, the City of Greater Sudbury is advancing Canada’s green economy objectives.
But the richness of this northern Ontario city goes beyond what happens underground. This global mining hub is quickly becoming an epicentre of battery metal supply chain innovation, while a cluster of mining supply and service companies is attracting entrepreneurs who are passionate and committed.
Known as “farm-to-table,” this opportunity brings together mining, automotive, battery and clean technologies “into one conversation that highlights Sudbury’s assets and advantages,” says Brian Bigger, Mayor of Greater Sudbury. “We’ve got the raw materials and we’ve got the expertise – the chefs – to do it cleanly and in a socially responsible way.”
With a 120-year history in mining, Sudbury is one of a handful of places in the world that produce Class I nickel, the purest form of the mineral, which is required for the transmission of energy in lithium-ion batteries. The Sudbury basin has nine operating mines, the province’s only two mining smelters and a nickel refinery, Mr. Bigger points out.
“You really don’t see this anywhere else in the world,” he says, noting that Sudbury also produces copper, an integral part of batteries, motors and wiring. The benefit of having such minerals in close proximity to manufacturing facilities is recognized by investors, he says. “The electrification of automobiles is something that will drive a lot of the world’s economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mayor of Greater Sudbury
Mr. Bigger notes that Sudbury’s mining service and supply businesses have continued to prosper throughout the crisis, “and it really is the entire international market that they’re serving.” Global exports and the presence of Sudbury businesses in markets such as Chile, Peru and Australia “have made us resilient at home,” he explains.
Mining companies in Sudbury are increasingly making major investments to extract valuable ore that’s ever-deeper in the ground, he says, which involves greening the mines themselves. Sudbury leads in the development and use of underground autonomous electric vehicles, huge pieces of equipment that can carry enormous loads in a rugged environment and that can be expanded to other industrial applications. “As a community, we’re very aware of the need to stay at the leading edge of these technologies,” Mr. Bigger says.
Meredith Armstrong, the city’s director of economic development, says that “the green economy really needs Sudbury,” noting that the city’s farm-to-table strengths come through in the recent numbers.
The Labour Force Survey results for January put the unemployment rate of Greater Sudbury at 5.3 per cent, a drop of 0.4 per cent from December and well below the jobless rate provincially and nationally.
“We have a very strong engine here,” she says. “There’s a lot of interest in Sudbury for people wanting to work remotely and looking for quality of life. And your dollar goes further here.”
Ms. Armstrong points out that the city has become an important centre of health innovation, research and education. “We’ve reached the tipping point, and investors have everything to do with that.”
Employment related to the mining sector is no longer solely underground but includes highly paid knowledge jobs, accountants and lawyers. Mines directly employ about 5,500 people locally, she says, while more than 300 businesses in other parts of the field employ another 14,000 people in the city – and growing.
Director of Economic Development, Greater Sudbury
“All of those people have come out of the mining sector with expertise in how to apply what they’ve learned,” Ms. Armstrong adds. “You get both the raw materials and the know-how to bring them to market.”
The city plans to host a major battery electric vehicle industry conference in the summer, with participation from the mining, automotive and green-energy sectors, among others. Mr. Bigger says the event is expected to include presentations and speakers to promote the battery metals supply chain and “open the door for companies to take advantage of the innovative opportunities available in Greater Sudbury and beyond.”
He points out that Sudbury, with a population of 165,000, “is the only city in northern Ontario that is growing and projected to grow.”
There has been a push for the last 40-plus years to rehabilitate Sudbury’s landscape, Mr. Bigger says, with ambitious regreening efforts that have included the planting of more than 14 million trees, while billions of dollars have been invested in researching and implementing pollution-abatement technologies. These have been shared around the world and recognized by the United Nations for their impact on the reduction of atmospheric emissions.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.