ELON MUSK is a ‘thing’.
He’s also one of ours. Yes, a Canadian, well… half-Canadian (by his own admission).
And now that we’ve got your attention it’s time Canada gives more than lip service to what the game-changers are doing.
Clean-tech pioneer Elon Musk wants to dig the dirt.
He says Tesla must beef up its supply chain or risk stalling electric car production on a global scale. The clear & present danger for his company is not having an assured supply of ingredients to make the power plant that makes the Tesla go; the battery in an electric car accounts for roughly one-third of the vehicle’s cost and a sizeable chunk of that investment is for Rare-earth Elements (REE).
GREEN ENERGY IS MORE THAN JUST SUNSHINE
Magnets, rechargeable batteries, lithium-ion batteries—the component parts of green energy—require copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel & graphite. Okay, so big deal you say — there’s plenty of that around. Green energy producers also must have rare-earth-elements with hard-to-pronounce names like: neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium.
Never heard of this stuff before?
Maybe that’s because 70% of the produced rare-earth elements are mined in China. And by a more liberal measure Canadian government stats suggests China produces as much as 90% of the world’s rare earth elements. Whatever the more accurate number, China, nevertheless, has a lock on rare earth components in the green-energy supply chain.
And with China as the primary miner of rare earth elements, the green-energy-boom may soon fizzle given the prospects of a China vs. America super-power blow out.
Just a few years ago, scientists & engineers in Canada had an inkling of the challenge—and opportunity—divying up a catalogue of rare earth reserves in Canada. At the time experts predicted: “Canada accounts for approximately 40% to 50% of the world’s known REE reserves.”
Who knew, eh?
Looking at the map: there are REE opportunities in northern Alberta & Saskatchewan, Quebec, across the whole country!
IT’S PERFECT FOR CANADA!
CONSIDER: We have rare earth element reserves;
We want to be green energy leaders;
We can even find some economic wiggle room in the China vs. America tete-de-tete.
Mining Canada’s rare earth elements could be a perfect game-changing strategy!
Problem: mining rare earth elements is tricky, and there’s substantive pollution that goes with the territory (the ores oxidize quickly). But Canadians have a (largely) proud history of extracting resources from the earth. This could be a game-changer for us!
BUT, BUT, BUT…
Oh, yeah. You’re right.
There’s Bill C-69 soon to be law of the land. Our virtue seeking federal government has a groovy new impact assessment process bundled with a lot of other head-scratching stuff before mining & other development projects can get a go-ahead.
PREDICTION: Thou shalt not be a rare-earth element mining rush any time soon in Canada (sorry, Elon).
If you think investment in natural resources was soft BEFORE Bill C-69, exploring for rare earth elements and developing those resources will be a full-on investor nightmare AFTER Bill C-69.
As for the immediate future, rare-earth mining in Canada is on a slippery slope. Anyone and everybody can file an intervention. And the obligation on governance is to hear what the lineup has to say, no matter how long it stretches from sea to sea to sea.
Meantime, the Chinese will keep on building roads & infrastructure.
And should our American ‘friends’ grow impatient waiting upon federal ‘process’ to develop Canada’s rare earth elements — elements they require to compete in the world and make their future — elements America can use to countercheck China’s rising ambitions, well… things could go south very quickly.