By Alex Ballingall, Toronto Star
OTTAWA—The federal government has unveiled an ambitious road map to make Canada a critical minerals powerhouse, describing a “generational opportunity” to spur economic growth, fight climate change and advance global security and Indigenous reconciliation — all at the same time.
The new strategy comes without fresh funding but is replete with lofty goals. Citing tens of billions of dollars worth of potential economic activity, the plan aims to position Canada as a premier global hub for minerals needed in the transition away from fossil fuels that cause climate change, going into everything from electric cars and semiconductors to solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear reactors. Canada would not only extract and process these minerals, the plan says, but also manufacture and recycle the products in which they are used, all while expanding mineral exploration and streamlining processes to approve major projects with new transport and energy infrastructure to support them.
Yet the strategy also highlights potential challenges to this vision, including the need to engage with Indigenous nations on whose territory future mining projects might sit, such as in Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” region, as well as concerns over the environmental harms of such resource extraction.
Both of those challenges exist in places like Ontario’s “Ring of Fire,” a mineral-rich area of environmentally sensitive peatlands where some First Nations have concerns about potential mining development, Wilkinson said.
“Both of those issues have to be addressed in any agreement that mining in the Ring of Fire is going to proceed,” he said.
Environmental groups have also voiced concerns about preserving the region’s peatlands, which are a natural “carbon sink” that offsets greenhouse gas emissions from human activity that cause climate change. A recent report from the organization Environmental Defence said the development of mining claims in the area could release up to 250 megatonnes of carbon — the equivalent of about 37 per cent of Canada’s national emissions in 2020.
Jamie Kneen from the group MiningWatch told the Star on Friday he is wary of the strategy’s aim to streamline approvals and regulations rules that he already feels are too lax for the industry.
“What we’re hearing from communities is that they want more protection, not less,” Kneen said.
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