What is a Critical Mineral?

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November 10, 2021

As ITI looks ahead to a new chapter in its proud mining history, you’re going to hear a lot about critical minerals.

ITI hosts Workshop on Critical Minerals

Critical minerals or elements are those considered essential for renewable energy and clean technology applications (batteries, permanent magnets, solar panels and wind turbines).

Theses minerals are essential for future manufacturing supply chains related particularly to the automotive industry; but also defence and security technologies, consumer electronics, agriculture, medical applications and critical infrastructure.

The primary push behind the development of critical minerals is climate change and the need to transition away from fossil fuels to greener and electricity-based technologies.

In the United States, 35 elements, minerals, and mineral groups are currently defined as critical minerals. Canada is currently a supplier for 13 of these 35 critical minerals.

In March 2021, Natural Resources Canada identified 31 minerals that it believes will position Canada as a leading supplier of critical minerals. This list is not identical to but is very similar to that of the United States.

Almost half of the minerals in Canada’s list of 31 can be found in the NWT. And while there is still work to do to fully define the scope of our potential, the NWT has several mining projects in which critical minerals are a primary commodity.

Several critical mineral projects have been identified, and are in the advanced stages of development and opportunities are opening for projects such as Fortune’s NICO, Cheetah Resources/Vital Metals’ Nechalacho, Osisko’s Pine Point, Cantung/Mactung and NorZinc’s Prairie Creek to help fill the anticipated demand.

According to Siddhartha Subramani of Hatch (Engineering) Ltd, critical minerals are commonly determined by four key criteria:

  1. Electronic importance: does the future demand, forecast and urgency of the demand for the mineral impact the pricing; and its importance to the value chain?
  2. Supply Risk: which areas, if any, within the supply chain are jurisdictions with high political risk or with low disruption resilience to other factors such as climate change and pandemics?
  3. The importance of the mineral to climate change: are they critical to the technology required to confront climate change?
  4. The strategic value to Canada: does being part of the supply chain have economic and social value to Canada and does Canada possess a competitive advantage (eg. ownership of resources, highly developed internal knowledge and/or technology, presence in downstream industries, low cost energy and available capital raising or financing opportunities).