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Critical minerals, such as copper, nickel, lithium, graphite and cobalt, make the modern world work. They are the building blocks of renewable energy projects and electric vehicles, and there is no energy transition without them

Which critical minerals are found in Canada?

After consulting with provinces, territories and industry, Canada released a critical minerals strategy in 2021 that lists 31 critical minerals. Those minerals are: aluminium, antimony, bismuth, cesium, chromite, cobalt, copper, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese; molybdenum, nickel, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, rare earth elements, scandium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium and zinc.

Canada’s mining industry is the leading global producer of potash and is ranked among the top five producers of aluminum, cobalt, diamonds, fluorspar, gemstones, gold, indium, niobium, palladium, platinum, tellurium, titanium concentrate and uranium, according to Natural Resources Canada. Of the 31 critical minerals outlined in its strategy, Canada has prioritized six minerals – lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements – for their potential to spur economic growth.

What is a critical minerals strategy?

Since Ottawa released its critical minerals strategy in 2021, the government has been doling out $1.5-billion to various companies in the critical minerals supply chain. Most provinces have followed suit with their own plans – all aimed at attracting investment and creating jobs.

The United States has created a Minerals Security Partnership that includes more than a dozen countries plus the 27-member European Union. The partnership has identified 17 projects that it believes will feed into secure critical minerals supply chains – efforts in mining and mineral extraction, minerals processing, and recycling and recovery. The partnership is encouraging private-sector investment into these projects.

Why is Canada so rich in minerals?

The Canadian Shield, which covers most of Eastern and northwestern Canada and wraps around Hudson Bay like a horseshoe, is a large area of exposed Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks and contains numerous large deposits of minerals. Metallic minerals are also found in such rock types in the Western Cordillera – a system of mountain ranges that includes the Canadian Rockies – and the Appalachian region, which stretches through the U.S. and Canada, through the coastal provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Quebec. Canada’s Arctic also contains significant mineral resources.

What are common everyday uses for critical minerals found in Canada?

Canada is one of the few Western nations that has an abundance of cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel, which are essential for batteries and electric vehicles. Canada is also the world’s second-largest producer of niobium, an important metal for the aerospace industry, and the fourth-largest producer of indium, a key input in semiconductors and many materials needed for advanced vehicle manufacturing. Other minerals and metals, such as potash, uranium and aluminum, are all critical to the global economy.

Why is Canada investing in critical minerals now?

There is a global push to make batteries for EVs in a bid to reduce emissions and help transition to a low-carbon economy. There is also a geopolitical push to reduce China’s dominant role in these mineral supply chains amid fears that Western countries could be deprived of materials they need to continue their transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Concerns about environmental and labour practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the dominant global supplier of cobalt, are also cited as reasons why the status quo is unacceptable.