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B.C. grows critical minerals sector, sustainable jobs

Press Release

Jan. 22, 2024

VANCOUVER – Phase 1 of a new made-in-B.C. Critical Mineral Strategy delivers key actions to build a clean economy by expanding the critical minerals sector in alignment with the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The world needs a stable, free, democratic, high-standard producer of the metals and minerals needed to battle climate change. That gives B.C. a generational opportunity to seize, one where we can be prosperous and protect the planet for our kids at the same time,” said Premier David Eby. “Resource workers like miners in our province are on the front lines of the fight against climate change. We’ll support them and their families, so they can support the whole province.”

Critical minerals, such as copper, nickel and molybdenum, are essential components in products used for clean energy like electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, electrical transmission lines and batteries. B.C.’s mining sector provides many of the building blocks of clean technologies that the province and the world need to fight climate change and build a clean economy.

The first phase of the Critical Minerals Strategy launches 11 key actions, including:

  • taking action to expedite critical minerals projects and maximize federal funding opportunities through a new Critical Minerals Project Advancement Office;
  • a B.C. critical minerals atlas to provide world-class geoscience data that is always current, and to support exploration and land-use planning;
  • alignment of Provincial and First Nations Energy and Mining Council critical minerals strategies, and continued engagement with First Nations across the province;
  • B.C. to work in partnership with First Nations and industry to identify and advance critical-mineral infrastructure like the North Coast Transmission Line that is essential to critical-mineral development and growth, supported by a $36-billion BC Hydro capital plan; and
  • taking action to ensure the highest environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, a new Energy and Mines Digital Trust project that empowers major mining operators in B.C. to be more transparent about where and how their products are made.

“As the economy transitions to clean energy, B.C. and the world are going to need critical minerals to build electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, and more,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “With rich mineral deposits, B.C. has a generational opportunity to drive growth and create new jobs for people across the entire value chain of critical minerals, from mining to manufacturing to recycling.”

In addition to opening up opportunities to develop additional critical minerals in B.C., the strategy also focuses on new ways to add value to the sector by growing downstream opportunities, such as processing and manufacturing, as well as battery recycling, that will see mined materials put back into the supply chain.

Future actions to expand B.C.’s Critical Minerals Strategy are expected to be delivered in the coming months. Next steps include actions to support First Nations participation in projects, economic analysis and support for First Nations’ capacity building to develop and refine policies and actions. An important part of the work ahead will be ensuring that the strategy is aligned with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

During Premier Eby’s announcement at the Association of Mineral Explorers annual conference, he shared exploration expenditures and mine production numbers for 2023, reaffirming another strong year for B.C.’s mining and mineral exploration sector. Last year, mineral-exploration expenditure in the province was $643.5 million, 94.1% higher than in 2018, the first full year of this government’s mandate. Mining production value is forecast to be more than $15.9 billion for 2023, a 63.9% increase from 2018. Over the past several years, B.C. has also made significant progress on exploration-permitting timelines, including a 52% reduction in the backlog of permits.

Quick Facts:

  • B.C.’s mining sector currently employs more than 35,000 workers in rural and urban communities.
  • The sector also contributes $7.3 billion to provincial gross domestic product (GDP), produces 28% of export value and approximately $1 billion in provincial government revenue to support services.
  • B.C. is rich with raw minerals, having 16 of the 31 identified critical minerals in the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy.
  • B.C. is Canada’s largest producer of copper and only producer of molybdenum, which are both critical minerals.
  • B.C. mines have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world.
  • The Province established a critical minerals advisory committee to guide and inform the work of drafting a Critical Minerals Strategy.
  • The committee was co-chaired by a representative of the First Nations Leadership Council and B.C., and is a diverse group with broad expertise on matters related to critical minerals and natural-resource stewardship.

Learn More:

For more information about the Critical Minerals Strategy, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content?id=A925302861954932A6D4493A5576CCDF

To view the critical minerals brochure, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/EDBFF83D359647698BC9A6EAFCA912B9

Two backgrounders follow.

Contacts:

Jimmy Smith
Office of the Premier
Jimmy.smith@gov.bc.ca

Tania Venn
Director of Communications
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation
Tania.venn@gov.bc.ca
250 208-6183

BACKGROUNDER 1

What people are saying about the Critical Minerals Strategy

Keerit Jutla, president and CEO, Association of Mineral Exploration –

“The government’s continued investment in geoscience is key to attracting mineral exploration investment and unlocking further potential. We appreciate the government’s acknowledgment that more action is required to facilitate the development of new critical mineral projects. Our members will work closely with the Province to continue advocating for supports on permitting, regulatory processes and guidance on collaboration with First Nations.”

Robert Phillips, political executive, First Nations Summit –

“A B.C. Critical Minerals Strategy will align with a soon-to-be announced First Nations Critical Minerals Strategy, which is grounded in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the rights holders’ requirement of free, prior and informed consent on mineral exploration and mining.”

Chief Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band –

“We are supportive of the First Nations Leadership Council’s effort to create a critical minerals strategy grounded in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. First Nations title and rights exist throughout British Columbia, therefore all mining requires our free, prior and informed consent. Through the First Nations and B.C. critical mineral strategies, we will develop a First Nations cost-benefit analysis model for any proposed project based upon First Nations’ views of natural capital.”

Mark Zacharias, executive director, Clean Energy Canada –

“B.C.’s critical-mineral opportunity has generated fewer headlines than it deserves. Today’s announcement sets the table for B.C. and Canada to break the global monopoly on critical minerals held by a handful of countries. Sustainably produced critical minerals are the building blocks of Canada’s and the world’s transition to clean energy. This opportunity is a reminder that building a sustainable economy creates winners across sectors, both old and new.”

Jessie Uppal, policy and legislative affairs, United Steelworkers –

“This strategy will help add thousands of safe, good-paying jobs in B.C.’s mining sector, and well positions our province for new jobs in emerging low-carbon supply chains.”

John Steen, director, Bradshaw Research Institute for Minerals and Mining, UBC –

“The strategy received input from major stakeholders including government, First Nations, finance, mining and academia. The result of this collaboration is a path forward to making B.C. one of the world’s leading sustainable mining jurisdictions to supply the metals needed for climate targets.”

Vincent Annunziato, director, business transformation and innovation division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection –

“To enhance the security and facilitation of international trade, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has successfully completed real-time, standards-based testing to exchange supply-chain data with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. By adopting this Energy and Mines Digital Trust technology in the mining sector, the Government of British Columbia is facilitating greater collaboration and transparency at the very beginning of the supply chain – the extraction of raw materials.”

Elisabeth Türk, director, Economic Cooperation and Trade, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe –

“The B.C. government’s efforts to embed trust and security in data, exchanged along critical raw-material supply chains using government-issued digital credentials, will increase transparency in a key sector for the green-economy transition. Learnings from the Energy and Mines Digital Trust are directly informing recommendations being developed by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business Critical Raw Material Traceability & Sustainability Project. This will contribute to aligning extractive industries’ practice with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

Contacts:

Jimmy Smith
Office of the Premier
Jimmy.smith@gov.bc.ca

Tania Venn
Director of Communications
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation
Tania.venn@gov.bc.ca
250 208-6183

BACKGROUNDER 2

What to know about Phase 1 of B.C. Critical Minerals Strategy actions

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation was directed in its mandate to develop a B.C. Critical Minerals Strategy. In Budget 2023, the ministry was given $6 million over three years to conduct geoscience, economic analysis and engagement, including establishing a Critical Minerals Advisory Committee, to inform strategy development.

This work has led to the development of 11 Phase 1 Critical Minerals Strategy actions, that will be impactful first steps to support the development and growth of the critical minerals sector, attract investment, and ensure a stable workforce in a competitive jurisdiction. These actions begin to address the barriers to critical-mineral project development, as well as the conditions to enable development. They also align with the Province’s commitments to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and B.C.’s Declaration Act.

The 11 key Phase 1 actions of the B.C. Critical Minerals Strategy are:

Critical Minerals Project Advancement Office:

The Critical Minerals Project Advancement Office is a foundational strategy action to support prioritization of critical-minerals projects in B.C. It is being put in place to centralize and expedite the advancement of priority critical-minerals projects, and lead the assessment of B.C.’s fiscal environment to ensure that B.C. leverages critical-mineral federal-funding opportunities like the Critical Mineral Infrastructure Fund and Strategic Innovation Fund’s critical-minerals offering. The office will feature:

  • a concierge service for critical-minerals projects with support for issues resolution, funding opportunities and regulatory processes;
  • project management support on permitting and regulatory processes, including federal processes; and
  • dedicated First Nations negotiators to help develop agreements, and advise and guide project proponents.

Investments in geoscience:

New investments in the B.C. geological survey will build provincial geoscience capacity to better support exploration and land-use planning efforts, including direct outreach with First Nations to share geoscience data and expertise. B.C. is committed to engaging First Nations and seeking partnership opportunities in geoscience activities.

The Province is investing $3.9 million to advance critical-mineral geoscience over four years, starting fiscal year 2022-23.

As British Columbia continues to pursue the generational economic growth and jobs opportunities that critical minerals present, it is more important than ever that the mineral exploration sector and First Nations have current, accessible and ongoing access to world-class geoscience. The first-ever B.C. Critical Minerals Atlas provides a comprehensive overview of the types of minerals found in B.C. and in what quantities. The atlas is ready to be shared with mining professionals in B.C., whose work demands that they have convenient access to comprehensive and user-friendly critical-mineral data.

The atlas supports the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 as a key step in evaluating the critical-mineral endowment of the province, and building awareness of critical-mineral opportunities for the mineral-exploration industry and First Nations.

Promotion of B.C.’s ESG advantage:

British Columbia is already recognized globally as a hub of mining expertise and innovation, and a global leader in ESG standards. The Province is committed to achieving a globally recognized standard of ESG and has established an ESG Centre of Excellence. The centre is supporting B.C. businesses and entrepreneurs to promote, develop and market environmentally friendly and socially responsible goods, resources and services.

Under this strategy action, the Province will increase investment attraction and promote B.C. businesses through a new Energy and Mines Digital Trust project (EMDT). The EMDT provides a transparent platform to manage companies’ credentials for ESG strengths. These credentials, which cannot be forged, prove where the product originated and how it was produced. This allows companies to demonstrate to investors that their products meet the highest global standards, meaning increased awareness of B.C.’s ESG strengths and traceability of B.C. critical minerals throughout the critical-minerals lifecycle.

If widely adopted, this technology has the potential to improve regulatory efficiency and transparency, leading to new market opportunities for B.C.’s natural-resource industry.

Priority critical-mineral infrastructure:

To secure critical-minerals growth in northwest British Columbia, the Province will partner with the federal government and First Nations to advance and identify funding for high-priority strategic regional infrastructure projects. These projects are essential to critical-mineral growth and meeting CleanBC goals such as clean-energy projects, roads, port upgrades and the North Coast Transmission Line. B.C. is preparing funding for these projects, including the recently announced BC Hydro 10-year capital plan.

This strategy action will support and build on an existing process to secure federal co-funding and First Nations equity opportunities in the North Coast Transmission Line, and to advance line construction that will enable critical-minerals growth in northwest B.C.

Invest in strategic regional critical-minerals projects:

In 2023, the Province announced a $1.05-billion partnership between E-One Moli and the governments of B.C. and Canada to bring lithium-ion battery cell production to Maple Ridge and create 450 high-quality, permanent jobs that are key to growing the province’s clean economy.

This strategy action will build on this approach to advance opportunities to leverage federal funding to enable critical-minerals processing, manufacturing, and circular-economy projects.

Infrastructure and electrification gap assessment:

To reach its CleanBC net zero by 2050 goals, the Province must make the transition to cleaner technologies and energy usage. This means ramping up the development of critical minerals to meet supply needs. This strategy action is a detailed provincewide assessment, that will identify and make plans to address infrastructure gaps that are barriers to critical-mineral development. The assessment will focus heavily on opportunities along the entire value spectrum of critical minerals, from extraction to processing, manufacturing and recycling.

First Nations partners and industry are anticipated to participate in the assessment. This action will complement government’s $36-billion investment through the BC Hydro 10-year capital plan for community and regional infrastructure projects, that will deliver clean, affordable electricity to people and businesses in the future.

Commitment to First Nations on continued critical-minerals development:

B.C.’s Critical Minerals Strategy will serve the mining and mineral exploration sectors, First Nations and people in British Columbia with an evergreen approach, with further development and implementation based on ongoing analysis and engagement with First Nations and First Nations organizations.

Engagement with rights holders is vital to informing strategy development and ensuring that a wide range of perspectives are reflected. First Nations engagement will be taking place throughout 2024, as the Province builds the next phase of the strategy.

This strategy action also includes a plan to work together with the B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council (FNEMC) to identify synergies between Phase 1 strategy actions and FNEMC’s B.C. First Nations Critical Mineral Strategy, as part of an evergreen approach to B.C.’s strategy implementation.

Continued commitment to reform Mineral Tenure Act:

Ongoing initiatives, such as Mineral Tenure Act (MTA) reform, are foundational to the success of the strategy. Collaboration between the Province and First Nations, and engagement with industry stakeholders is underway to modernize the MTA in alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This work will continue over the next 15 months with a goal of implementing the new act in spring 2025. The Province is building on the collaboration it has already undertaken, ensuring transparent and consistent communication, and cooperation between B.C., First Nations rights and title holders, and the First Nations Leadership Council. MTA reform will help continue to build a responsible and healthy mining sector that upholds and respects First Nations rights and title, and creates best practices that improve certainty for all.

Fiscal environment assessment:

The Province will conduct a business case analysis to assess the need for targeted incentive programs, that can drive investment throughout the critical-mineral lifecycle, incentivize production and maintain competitiveness. This work will identify barriers to attracting investment and recommends next steps to mitigate those barriers, as well as potential fiscal measures.

StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan skills training and workforce development:

The ministries of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, and Post Secondary and Future Skills, will partner to optimize programs to meet workers and critical-minerals sector skills and training needs. This work includes assessing existing programming and identifying and addressing gaps, including engagement with First Nations regarding specific training-program needs to build expertise necessary in critical-minerals exploration, mining and throughout the value chain.

Alignment of B.C. and First Nations Energy and Mining Council Critical Mineral Strategies, and continued engagement with First Nations.

Contacts:

Jimmy Smith
Office of the Premier
Jimmy.smith@gov.bc.ca

Tania Venn
Director of Communications
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation
Tania.venn@gov.bc.ca
250 208-6183

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