Clean-energy transition an opportunity for mining: report

Global movement toward clean energy sources is a boon for Canada’s mining industry.

That’s the conclusion of Mining for Clean Energy: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2017, a new report from Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.

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Solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, smart grids and LED lights all require metals and minerals produced in Canada, the report noted.

Increased production of these environmentally friendly items represents “a significant opportunity” for mining companies operating in the country, the report found.

The report’s authors focused largely on solar power, noting 14 of the 19 metals and minerals needed to build solar panels are available or produced in Canada.

Two of those metals, copper and silver, are mined in northern Manitoba. Some of the 19 metals and minerals are co-produced with zinc and gold, which are also mined in this region.

Solar industry growth is already driving up demand for these natural resources, according to the report, with more substantial growth projected in the coming decades.

“Canada could emerge as a key supplier of resources for the buildout of solar power,” the report stated.

The report said copper “has emerged as an essential material in the clean energy transition, not because it is critical for any one technology but because it is critical to the whole clean energy system.

“From its use in wind and solar technologies, to power transmission lines, to wiring in electric vehicles (electric vehicles require four times as much copper as internal combustion engines), copper is an essential ingredient.”

At least one junior miner active in northern Manitoba is acutely aware of the potential benefits of the clean energy transition underway.

Far Resources hopes to open a lithium mine at its Zoro property outside Snow Lake. The company is encouraged by the growing demand for lithium in the production of electric-car batteries.

While some environmental advocates see sluggish progress in the move toward clean energy, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, an assistant professor in the School of Environment at McGill University, appears optimistic.

“In 2016, renewable energy surpassed coal as the largest source of installed power capacity in the world,” he wrote in the Globe and Mail in 2016. “China’s carbon emissions peaked. The German upper house, the Bundesrat, voted to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2030. Vancouver chose to outlaw natural gas in new buildings by the same year.

“These are among the many signs the world is moving toward kicking its carbon habit, possibly by mid-century – a shift that would represent the simplest way to combat climate change.”

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