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Natural Resources Minister makes big announcements on mining in Sudbury

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Critical minerals and the environment were two of the main reasons for a visit from Canada’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, where he made two funding announcements worth more than $10 million total.

Canada’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, makes funding announcements in Sudbury. June 10, 2024 (Ian Campbell/CTV Northern Ontario)

Wilkinson began his day Monday by announcing two investments of $5 million each to the Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corp (MIRARCO) and Electra Battery Materials Corporation (Electra) to support the critical minerals sector in northern Ontario.

Funding to MIRARCO will aim to advance technological readiness for recovery of battery metals like nickel, cobalt and copper from mine tailings at Vale and Glencore mines in Greater Sudbury while reducing the long-term social and environmental costs associated with mine waste.

Electra will be used to advance the next phase of its battery materials recycling project. The company is currently constructing the continent’s only battery-grade cobalt refinery as part of an effort to build the North American supply chain for battery materials.

The Canadian government also announced Monday it would be releasing an updated critical minerals list by adding three new minerals. The list guides federal policy and programs and signals the government's priority to stakeholders.

After consultation with the provinces and territories, Canada added high-purity iron, phosphorous and silicon metal to bring the total of critical minerals on the government’s list to 34.

From there, it was off for a tour of Dynamic Earth before finishing at the Jane Goodall Reclamation Trail in Garson.

Wilkinson announced the government’s pledge of $200,000 to the city to plant 2000,000 trees by the year 2027. The second amount was $300,000 to the Canadian Tree Nursery Association to increase skilled labour in the tree nursery sector.

"I’m here with Councillor Natalie Labbée for Ward 7 to celebrate this early and important investment and to recognize from the federal government, certainly our role here in Sudbury of re-greening and our history since the 70s," said Mayor Paul Lefebvre.

The minister stood ready to defend this government’s recent positioning between support for both the environment and the mining economy.

His government has taken heat over affordability given recent increases in the cost of living and taxes.

He was asked how plans to counter the argument given how some have accused the pendulum of swinging too far the other way.

"I certainly agree that we need to be focused on affordability. As you know, the gasoline price by and large is a world price, it’s set on the world market and it’s not a Canadian price and the only real thing that you’re talking about are provincial or federal taxes that are on gasoline," Wilkinson said.

"Mr. Poilievre likes to talk about the price on pollution or the 'carbon tax,' but what Mr. Poilievre conveniently forgets is that eight out of 10 Canadian families, especially those who live on modest incomes, do get more money back. He can say it all he wants, that he doesn’t believe that’s true, but every reputable economist, every reputable source says that’s true and I think it’s time Mr. Poilievre stopped lying to Canadians."

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