Ottawa on Monday approved an environmental assessment for a lithium mine project in Quebec that can produce 5,480 tonnes of ore per day once accomplished amid a growing global push to secure supplies of critical minerals.

The James Bay Lithium Mine Project, which is positioned about 100 kilometres east of James Bay within the Eastmain Cree Community in Quebec, will produce lithium — a key ingredient in clean technology like electric vehicle batteries and solar panels, the federal government said Monday.

Lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and the group of 17 metals and minerals referred to as rare earth elements are being prioritized for investments in exploration, production and processing as a part of Canada’s critical minerals strategy, announced last month by Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

“The federal government is committed to creating Canada the worldwide supplier of selection for sustainably and responsibly sourced critical minerals, from exploration and extraction, to manufacturing and recycling, while also fostering mutually useful relationships between industry and Indigenous peoples,” said Wilkinson in a news release Monday.

“Through the recently released critical minerals strategy, we’re supporting responsible and sustainable critical mineral development, to create good jobs, lower emissions, and construct the low-carbon economy.”

In keeping with figures provided by the proponent, Galaxy Lithium Canada Inc., the James Bay Lithium Mine Project would require 280 employees throughout the construction phase and an annual average of 167 employees throughout the mine’s 15-to-20-year operation.

The James Bay project has been subject to a radical review process conducted by a joint assessment committee consisting of representatives from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the Cree Nation Government, Ottawa said.

The project can proceed, subject to oversight throughout its lifecycle. The federal government has laid out 271 legally binding conditions Galaxy Lithium must follow, including measures to guard fish and fish habitat, migratory birds and birds in danger, wetlands, woodland caribou, bats in danger, Cree health and the present use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Crees.

Critical minerals were also among the many issues Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador discussed during their summit last week in Mexico.

In 2020, the World Bank predicted that demand for critical minerals will soar 500 per cent by 2050. Canada shouldn’t be a business producer of rare earth elements, though it does have among the largest-known deposits.

Trudeau was scheduled to be in Saskatoon on Monday to go to a rare earths element processing plant.

— with files from The Canadian Press


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