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Battery Boom! The whole world is going electric.

Jan 23, 2021

By Kevin Vincent
The search for minerals that feed the growing green economy holds massive economic potential for both Ontario and Quebec. The good news is that multi-national mining companies are extremely sensitive to market sentiment when it comes to sustainability, environmental protection, global warming, and electric vehicles (EV).
In mid-December, the Government of Canada announced it “recognizes the importance of investing in affordable and sustainable public transit that helps Canadians and their families travel to and from their destinations safely and efficiently.” And so, the federal government is beginning to invest in battery-operated transit buses.
“Investing in cleaner transit options not only helps us meet our climate targets, it ensures cleaner air and a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
That’s why the Government of Canada announced funding provided through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, to the City of Ottawa to purchase more buses, including battery-electric buses.”
In total, the City of Ottawa is investing $9.3 million, including the purchase of four long-range 40-foot battery-electric buses, along with the necessary supporting infrastructure.
That kind of news means the government is sending a signal, which means a massive win for Canada’s mining sector – electric, battery-powered vehicles require minerals that Canada has in abundance, especially northern Ontario and Quebec.
“I was listening to Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, and he mentioned that because of the type of batteries they are using in their cars, there would be a huge need for nickel and lithium, because the type of the battery they are using is based on nickel and lithium, and there would be a surge in the need to provide those metals,” said Zeinab Azadbakht, the Timmins Resident Geologist.
“Because he’s forecasting that, people are more willing to buy a green car rather than a normal fuel-consuming car. And if that happens, there would be a huge need, a large surge in the need for producing more of these elements.”
Azadbakht says that’s one of the reasons that companies have started looking at nickel in places like Timmins now, because nickel is one of the key elements in producing those types of batteries. “That’s something that we (in northern Ontario) actually have good potential. So, when we are talking about nickel, or PGEs, they are the minerals and the mineralization that are mostly related to mafic and ultramafic rocks, the type of rocks that we have in our districts,” she adds.
The world has been addicted to hydrocarbon for over a century since the birth of the automobile. Once Henry Ford figured out how to mass produce a car in 93 minutes, there were hundreds of car companies that followed.
Canadian billionaire Robert Friedland points out that the big winners were not the car manufacturers, but the oil companies.
“John D. Rockefeller, who was producing crude oil. Because he didn’t have to figure out which car company would succeed or fail. Crude oil became the biggest business in the world,” said Friedland in a recent podcast.
He adds that the oil industry is being disrupted. “We have through mass telecommunications, the internet broadband, wireless, everybody knows that this is going to be a strident and considered effort to get the world off of the burning of coal and off the burning of hydrocarbon. It’s inevitable, and the fundamental decision has been taken sort of by our Jungian mass consciousness. There are red States and there are blue States in the United States, but the automobile industry cannot build cars just for the red States. Once California mandates electric cars and New York follows, it’s just much more efficient to start making electric cars and making the transition.”
Which is ideal for northern Ontario because we have the raw materials according to Azadbakht. “When you go out and you see these dark-wing rocks everywhere, they are mafic volcanics, which is the type of rock that we need to produce some of this mineralization. So, we are sitting at the right time, right location to produce some of the elements that they might be interested in.”
Regarding Timmins, Azadbakht says there are locations that geological-wise, have the potential for all types of battery mineralization. “But in geology, one of the first things that you’re taught is that just because you have a good environment for something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have the mineralization.”
Azadbakht is conducting serious research into the region’s potential for rare earth metals. “I was doing some research on tin, and then I came across, an apatite mine and it kind of clicked. Because, as a part of my Ph.D., I published a paper on apatite geochemistry.
She says knowing we have an apatite mine within our district, it could also have rare earths. “It instantly attracts my mind to various minerals. And I started looking out and I realized that we actually, speaking as a district, have a very good potential for rare earth mineralization. That’s something that I’m actively working on as of now.”
While he isn’t referring specifically to the northern Ontario or northwestern Quebec regions, Friedland is on the same page as Azadbakht, but he’s blunt about the evolving impact of the green economy.
“The whole supply chain is going to be dramatically disrupted and we only have one periodic table of elements to work with, and it’s not great for hydrocarbon. The transformation or the reduction in the use of hydrocarbon and coal in the way we generate and transmit energy will be the largest transition in our evolution of our species that’s happened in recorded modern history.”
It won’t happen overnight. Various jurisdictions won’t get rid of all hydrocarbon or coal in one fell swoop. However, president Xi Jinping just announced that China is going to be carbon neutral by 2060. Which Friedland says is “really tomorrow morning, when you think about it.”
Industry watchers predict that we are going to see the electrification of everything - cars, buses, trains, skateboards, hoverboards, motorcycles, aircraft, hovercraft, and drones.
“You put a little rectifier on your back porch, the size of a dime, and you call up Amazon and then, you want to order a pizza,” said Friedland. “Well, that drone that brings it to you will have a hydrogen fuel cell and an electric motor, and then they’ll have to engineer it to make it as quiet as possible. Otherwise, it’d be too many honeybees running around and it’ll deliver your pizza to your back door.”
Friedland said the whole system is going to have to be revolutionized and people underestimate the role of the miners. “I would call this the, the revenge of the miners. You don’t like crude oil. You don’t like coal. You want the world to be green. Well, then we’re going to, you know, we’re going to see the revenge of the miners. We’re going to need much higher metals prices to stimulate the exploration and production process. And if you want that process to be truly green and truly sustainable, you really want to build schools and hospitals around the people that live where the mines are. Then we’re going to have to pay for it. You know, there’s no free lunch.”

Read this article and more in Mining Life & Exploration News - January Issue


Tags: Eastern Canada / Green Mining / Battery Metals / All Articles