THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Ontario is seeking to attract more critical mineral development and investment to the resource-rich province, with Premier Doug Ford tying it to his bid to boost the province’s electric vehicle and battery production.
The premier announced a critical minerals strategy Thursday, a five-year roadmap that comes as a few weeks are left in his government’s term before the campaign for the June 2 election begins.
Ford said the strategy is a framework for connecting resources and industry in the north to manufacturing in the south, tapping into markets, and securing Ontario’s place in the global supply chain.
“Doing so has never been more important as we secure game-changing investments in our auto sector to build the electric vehicles and batteries of the future using Ontario minerals,” he said Thursday in a statement.
Ontario already produces $3.5 billion a year in critical minerals, which are used in smartphones, batteries for electric vehicles and solar panels.
Greg Rickford, minister of northern development, mines, natural resources and forestry, said Ontario is blessed with deposits of nickel, lithium, platinum, cobalt and dozens of other strategically important raw materials.
“Many of these minerals have been identified by other countries as having geopolitical significance due to supply shortages or concentration of supply in very few countries,” he wrote in the introduction to the strategy.
“Global conflict has exacerbated these supply vulnerabilities and Ontario must step up to meet the soaring demand for critical minerals.”
The strategy aims to support exploration, boost domestic processing and create local supply chains, reduce regulatory burdens, and build economic development opportunities with Indigenous communities.
The province is investing $24 million over three years in Ontario’s Junior Exploration Program, including $12 million for a critical minerals stream, and $5 million over two years in a new critical minerals innovation fund.
Currently, Ontario has approximately 130 early exploration projects targeting critical minerals and an additional 16 advanced-stage projects.
Ford promised during the 2018 election to immediately develop the Ring of Fire, a mineral-rich region 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. The Opposition New Democrats pointed out that hasn’t happened.
“The critical mineral industry, including the Ring of Fire, is too important to be just another one of Doug Ford’s hollow election promises,” Judith Monteith-Farrell, the NDP critic for natural resources and mines said in a statement Thursday.
Environmental assessments are underway for all-season road projects in the area, including those conducted by Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation.
The critical minerals strategy also says Ontario will prioritize the recycling of electric vehicle batteries and their minerals for reuse.
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