Photo: Canadian Mining Journal

Ottawa: The strategic mistake made in allowing Russia to have global dominance in oil and gas cannot be repeated as the world looks to massively ramp up production of critical minerals, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson asserted this week.

Demand for critical minerals and metals such as lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt and copper is exploding as demand climbs for everything from smartphones and laptops to wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars.

“Simply put, there is no energy transition without critical minerals, and this is why critical mineral supply chain resilience is an increasing priority for advanced economies,” Wilkinson said, in the written forward to a draft of his promised critical minerals strategy, released this week.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Wilkinson said that resilience will only come if western countries don’t allow a geographic concentration of mineral production in countries that can’t be trusted.

“Where we are going to have an absolute requirement for these minerals, being dependent on countries that do not always share our perspectives on global affairs, and that have shown the ability at times to use their control of some of these resources as a weapon, is not a very good strategy,” he said.

“In the current context, China and Russia are the number 1 and number 2 producers and processors of many of these minerals. And so I think there is an understanding in the democratic world that we do need to ensure that there are secure and stable sources of supply.”

Following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, Europe is facing an oil and gas crisis as it tries to disentangle itself from heavy reliance on Russian fossil fuels, without easy alternative sources. That is a wake-up call for western democracies in the critical minerals field, Wilkinson said.

He said “the emerging reality for all of us” is that when it comes to critical mineral supply chains we “actually do need to be considering where these minerals are coming from, and how we can actually work with other democratic countries to ensure security of supply.”

Right now China is the biggest global player in critical minerals it is the world’s largest producer of half of the 31 minerals and metals Canada has listed as critical to its economy.

By Mia Rabson
The Canadian Press