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Creating a Secure and Open Market for Critical Minerals

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February 25, 2020

Earlier this year, Canada and United States announced a joint action plan to strengthen the security and resilience of critical mineral supply chains between our two countries. The joint plan creates a pathway for Canada and the United States to boost production of these minerals and create value-added downstream industries. So, what are critical minerals anyway? And why is the joint action plan important?

The United States has identified 35 minerals as critical to economic and national security interests. Canada is an important supplier of 13 of these. While these minerals, including rare earth elements, may be difficult to produce and process due to a number of factors, they are also essential components to many of the electronic devices we rely on every day. For example, Canada is a global supplier of iridium, a metal compound used to make, among other things, LED backlights for television and computer screens, high performance spark plugs, and aggressive cancer therapy.

Potential for market distortions in critical mineral supply chains puts North American suppliers at an economic disadvantage, and may create security implications. As recently as 2010, global rare earth supply constraints caused major market disruptions. The impact of restricted supply reverberated throughout the supply chain, highlighting the need for both supplier and producer diversity as demand for these important minerals grows.

What’s more, bilateral cooperation on critical minerals production is mutually beneficial given the integrated nature of our economies and our long-standing record as defence partners. It is advantageous to businesses and consumers on both sides of the border to secure critical mineral supply chains. Access to reliable sources of raw and value-added products will enhance foundational and innovative sectors in our trading relationship, including manufacturing, transportation, communication technology, aerospace and defence, and clean technology.

The joint action plan itself sets up a process for interagency cooperation between federal governments. In Canada, we committed to provinces and territories, and to industry to work together to explore strategic supply chain development and diversification. A coordinated approach to mining and manufacturing will increase competitiveness, stimulate innovation, and encourage the participation of Indigenous communities.

In addition, increased investment in Canadian exploration and mining projects will spur job creation and lead to growth in downstream industries. Industry, investors, and workers all benefit from stability in the market. Unlike global competitors, Canada’s regulatory framework requires strong commitments to transparency, to sustainable mineral development and to community and Indigenous engagement in the process.

For over 150 years, Canadians and Americans have tackled difficult problems together. The joint action plan on critical minerals follows a well-worn path. Ultimately, it will make both Canada and the United States more prosperous and secure.

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