Canada sees China as less ‘dependable’ partner on critical minerals, minister says

Jonathan Wilkinson speaking in London on Tuesday. Credit: Jonathan Wilkinson’s Twitter page

Canada wants to reach deals with countries that are more “dependable” trading partners than China for the supply and processing of the critical materials needed to power the energy transition, a Canadian minister said on Tuesday.

“Much of the critical mineral resources around the world is controlled by China … We are in a geopolitical universe where China is a trading partner that is probably not as dependable as the countries with whom we share values,” Canada’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said at a Canada-UK critical minerals investment forum in London.

“We have made pretty clear that we have concerns about the state-owned enterprises investing in critical minerals in Canada,” he added.

Canada in 2022 asked three Chinese companies to sell their stakes in Toronto-listed lithium explorers after a national security review, a move that raised questions about the future of other Chinese investments in the Canadian mining sector.

Lithium is used in batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), which are expected to eventually displace internal combustion engines.

In March, Wilkinson told Reuters that the Canadian government would not force Chinese state investors to divest their stakes in large mining companies, including Teck Resources, Ivanhoe Mines and First Quantum Minerals, to avoid policy uncertainty.

“Nobody is saying that there is not going to be trade with China, but what we are trying to do is to create diversity of supply so that there is greater security of supply,” he said on the sidelines of the event in London.

Canada, home to a large mining sector for minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt, wants to woo companies involved in all levels of the EV supply chain through a multi-billion-dollar green technology effort.

It has made partnership agreements with a string of countries, including Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and the members of the European Union, to respond to a need to scale up mining and processing of critical minerals, Wilkinson said, adding that achieving that goal would take some time.

“That is something we are going to do step by step and it is difficult to say when you are going to reach that stable level you feel there is sufficient security, but I would say that will take a number of years.”

(By Clara Denina and Divya Rajagopal; Editing by Paul Simao)


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