Alberta’s government has appointed a panel to help attract investment in minerals that are seeing increasing global demand.
The five-member Mineral Advisory Council is tasked with helping develop a strategy to mine the province’s deposits of minerals like lithium, a key component of batteries, vanadium, uranium, diamonds, and potash.
Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a Tuesday interview with Postmedia the province needs to give investors certainty and predictability.
“We have the ability to start from scratch and build a strategy and build a regulatory process,” said Savage.
In 2019, Canada’s total mineral production value reached $48 billion. The government said it will gather input for its strategy from stakeholders, including Indigenous, exploration and development, environmental and conservation, and research and innovation groups, as well as farming, landowner, and municipal organizations.
“We have companies that are ready to invest now, and they need a process, so our timeline is tight. We want to have legislation and any regulatory changes, any pieces that need to be done, ready to go in the spring,” said Savage.
The panel is made up of former premier of the Northwest Territories Bob McLeod, executive director of the Nunavut Water Board Stephanie Autut, president and CEO of Lucara Diamond Corporation Eira Thomas, president and CEO of IAMGOLD Gordon Stothart, and Allison Rippin Armstrong, who has worked with government, industry and Indigenous organizations.
Part of the government’s strategy will include helping to improve data on mineral deposits in Alberta.
The UCP government has been touting its latest diversification efforts, including in the technology and innovation sector, but Alberta’s Opposition NDP has criticized those sector and business-specific investments as being a fraction of the NDP’s diversification plans.
Savage said the government is focused on investors and people looking to set up business in Alberta. “Those are the people that we’re talking to,” said Savage.
Under the Progressive Conservative government, Alberta Energy commissioned a Mines and Minerals Strategy in 2002, but “then it just stood still,” said Savage, adding the UCP wants to allow affected communities to contribute so projects could move forward while protecting the environment.
Savage is expected to announce the Mine and Minerals strategy panel Wednesday morning with the CEO of Calgary-based business E3 Metals Corp, Chris Doornbos.
The company has developed technology that produces purified lithium concentrate from the light metal that occurs naturally in the province’s oilfield brines. Battery-grade lithium hydroxide can be used in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, a key component of electric cars.
Doornbos said in a government news release that as E3 Metals works to commercialize lithium production in Alberta, the company is excited about the prospects.
Savage said E3 Metals represents an opportunity for near-term jobs, but the company needs a government strategy to back it up. “We want to make sure we get the jobs here in Alberta, and now,” said Savage.
Most of Alberta’s non-energy mineral production comes from 20 quarries producing salt, silica sand, limestone and other industrial minerals, with a small amount of gold production as a byproduct of sand and gravel operations, according to the release.
Following the panel’s engagement process, the UCP government plans to release its strategy and action plan in Spring 2021.
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