Nfld. & Labrador

Mining deals between Canada and German automakers could benefit N.L.'s industry, says executive

The head of Mining Industry N.L. says Canada's dealings this week with its allies in Germany bode well for his sector.

Ed Moriarity, executive director of Mining Industry N.L., says agreement is a tremendous opportunity

Ed Moriarity, executive director of Mining Industry NL, says Newfoundland and Labrador is in a good position to provide critical minerals to automakers for electric vehicle batteries. (Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters)

The head of Mining Industry N.L. says Canada's dealings this week with its allies in Germany bode well for his sector.

With much of the attention focused on Canada's partnership with Germany for hydrogen, the federal government also signed memorandums of understanding with massive automakers Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday to help the German companies secure access to the critical minerals needed to build electric vehicle batteries.

Ed Moriarity, executive director of Mining Industry N.L., said Thursday the agreement is a "tremendous opportunity" for Canada as well as Newfoundland and Labrador and he hopes the province can move forward with it.

"In Newfoundland and Labrador's case, certainly we have active mines in terms of copper, cobalt and nickel. We have active discoveries in terms of lithium and rare earth elements and we've been a past producer of zinc," said Moriarity.

"Our province's geology, our prospectivity as a place for mineral occurrences, is very positive and very strong."

Mining Industry N.L. is a not-for-profit business association that represents all sectors of the mineral industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In May, mining company Vale tipped the first domino by signing a supply deal with electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. Nickel mined at Vale's Voisey's Bay site in northern Labrador could end up in electric vehicle batteries.

Moriarity said N.L. is in a "sweet spot" to benefit from the new federal agreement. 

He pointed to existing infrastructure and existing mines that are possibly looking to expand or increase production to support the critical-minerals market for electric vehicle batteries.

Demand for minerals will increase

Some of the minerals needed for electric vehicle batteries, such as lithium, aren't being mined in Newfoundland and Labrador yet but they have been discovered. 

Moriarity said it could take up to a decade from discovery to when those minerals come out of the ground. 

Ed Moriarity says the demand for critical minerals will increase dramatically. (Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

"We have a lot of exploration activity right now, out of which hopefully we'll see some new mines and new activities in support of that critical-minerals lens," he said. 

"There's a regulatory framework that we have to adhere to. There's an environmental assessment process that's very important to this community. Engagement and consultation is very important and raising capital."

Companies are trying to make the process as streamlined and efficient as possible, said Moriarity, without sacrificing standards and regulations.

He said he hopes mining projects will be able to move quickly because the demand for critical minerals is going to increase dramatically. 

"The world is expected to see a quadrupling of production between energy transition minerals. Today's production is around six million tons and that's forecast to go to 28 million tons over the next eight to 10 years," Moriarity said. 

"Newfoundland and Labrador still remains relatively underexplored relative to its peers, but that is changing. We have quite a rush of new investment over the last year and a half, two years, and with that comes new geology, new discovery."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Heather Gillis

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