'Smoke and mirrors': Northern miners call for more support for critical minerals

The Canadian Press

Mining companies with projects in the North say more federal support is needed following the release of Canada’s new critical minerals strategy, while some environmental advocates are wary of the potential impacts.

Several projects in the North focus on critical minerals – so-called because they are considered critical to Canada’s economy and strategic industries like clean technology – including zinc, copper, cobalt, bismuth, tungsten, uranium, and nickel. Canada’s first rare earth elements mine, Nechalacho mine owned by Vital Metals subsidiary Cheetah Resources, opened in the Northwest Territories in 2021.

Robin Goad, president and chief executive officer of Fortune Minerals Ltd., said his company has been speaking with the federal government about critical minerals for more than five years, but has yet to see substantive action. Fortune owns the proposed Nico mine, a cobalt, gold, bismuth and copper project in the N.W.T.


N.W.T. legislature member and longtime environmental advocate Kevin O’Reilly said he sees the strategy as a push for deregulation of the mining industry.

“I don’t think that this is terribly helpful and I don’t think that this is the right approach when it comes to the climate crisis,” he said.

O’Reilly said these projects can be risky both financially and environmentally and more work should be done to examine the potential environmental and human health impacts from processing these minerals.

Jamie Kneen with MiningWatch Canada said the strategy ignores many issues relating to mining.

“What we’ve got here is a plan to promote mining, not a plan to really ensure that Canada’s doing anything more than accelerating the kinds of extractive processes of an extractive economy that we’re already engaged in.”

Kneen said there should be greater emphasis on planning and co-ordination with Indigenous governments so communities can adequately engage with and respond to resource projects.

The federal government plans to discuss energy and resource priorities, including critical minerals, the territories and provinces.

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