Ontario is home to one of the world’s richest deposits of critical minerals which are vital to the production of such high-value items as rechargeable batteries, LEDs, fibre optics, aerospace parts, and medical isotopes. Our province is quickly establishing itself as a reliable, responsible, domestic source of these critical elements for manufacturers throughout North America.
Last week, the Ford government announced the launch of Ontario’s Critical Minerals Strategy, an initiative that will have a significant impact on our city and region.
For years, domestic manufacturers have relied upon the steady supply of these minerals from a limited number of offshore options – countries such as China, Russia, Indonesia, Congo and Chile.
However, recently, heightened global demand for these materials, concerns over unsafe labour practices and a series of global conflicts have constrained supply chains and motivated manufacturers to pursue more reliable, socially responsible alternatives in North America.
As new innovations and technological advances continue to drive the global economy and the demand for these vital resources increases even further, Ontario is positioning itself to take advantage of this opportunity and become a global leader in the supply of the critical minerals both at home and abroad.
So what does it mean for Southwestern Ontario and specifically the London Region?
As the Premier noted in last week’s press conference, “Ontario’s Critical Minerals Strategy is the government’s blueprint to connect industries, resources and workers in the north with our manufacturing capability in the south; and develop a domestic supply chain for emerging, mineral-based technologies that will rival the world”.
Premier Ford is referring to the strong link his government is forging between critical minerals in the north with Ontario’s renewed, re-energized automotive manufacturing sector in southwestern Ontario, a sector that over the last two years has attracted a whopping $4 billion in new investment from such market leaders as Ford, GM, Honda, and Stellantis.
The positive impact associated with these new plant investments is almost incalculable. In addition to expanding upon the 100k direct jobs currently attributed to Ontario’ automotive manufacturing sector, the investments act as magnets that help revitalize everything along the 401 corridor – from parts plants to retail stores. As important, a number of the announced investments are earmarked for the manufacturing of electric or hybrid vehicles that rely on ready-access to Ontario minerals such as nickel, cobalt, and lithium. This places SW Ontario at the forefront in the development and production of zero-emission vehicles.
The drivers behind the sudden wave of investments are that domestic and foreign automakers are quickly recognizing that Ontario is:
- A terrific place to do business.
- Home to a highly skilled, highly qualified workforce.
- Located near a wealth of minerals considered vital to the future of the sector.
- Committed to responsible employment and mining practices, respect for Indigenous partners, and environmental sustainability.
Additional Benefits for London
In addition, the expansion of our economy both in region and throughout the province, and the emergence of a robust critical minerals capability contributes additional benefits to our community.
For one, both Western and Fanshawe are primed to contribute exceptional research and talent to the sector. Western is also home to a strong cohort of renowned scientists and engineers that specialize in the fields of rechargeable batteries, light-weight materials, alternative energy technologies, and advanced manufacturing processes.
London is also home to other world-class non-automotive manufacturers that will similarly benefit from a secure critical minerals supply chain including General Dynamics and 3M.
Finally, as assets belonging to the people of the Ontario, the extraction of these critical minerals generate royalties for the province, funds that can be used to benefit all Ontarians such as enhancing our health and long-term care facilities, revitalizing our roads and infrastructure, and/or paying down debt.
There is still considerable work to do to fully-enable this emerging north-south partnership. We still need to secure access to remote sites within our province where the mines can operate safely and sustainably. We also need to expand Ontario’s processing capacity to help turn the raw material into a useable resource. Finally, we need to expand Ontario’s transportation options to ensure goods can travel safely and efficiently from mines in the north to manufacturing plants in the south.
Nevertheless, the strategy and its positive impacts are already beginning to manifest themselves in a province that is clearly committed to not just supporting this transition to the cleaner future of transportation, but to lead it – both at home and abroad.