Establishing a supply of critical minerals is fundamental to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and highlights the increased need for sustainability in the mining industry. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that demand for sustainable minerals will increase , for use in renewable electricity, batteries, electronics, and electric vehicles. While the technologies using critical minerals are contributing to the achievement of sustainable development goals, mineral extraction processes pose threats to the environment. As the mining of these essential elements grows exponentially, prioritizing ecofriendly mining practices is key.
This blog post will provide an overview of potential solutions to ensure that the supply chain remains safe and sustainable, as well as identifying critical mineral funding available for your business.
Innovative Solutions Across Value Chain
On both demand and production sides, increasing R&D is the key to being at the forefront of the critical minerals sustainability movement. Sustainable solutions are needed at all points of the supply chain, including direct mining, transportation, storage, and more.
Zero-footprint mines, key for sustainable mining, can be achieved through two pathways: short-term decarbonization actions and mid- and long-term opportunities. Short term decarbonization actions have mines adopt more environmentally friendly technologies which are currently available. There exists a gap in mid- and long-term technologies, which require development and research to establish methods not currently available. Some ways to decarbonize future mining operations in the long term are already being investigated:
- Sustainable drivetrains;
- Renewable power sources;
- Zero emission mine transport; and
- Carbon dioxide absorbing mined rock.
Mining Waste And Circular Economy
Studies show that smelters and refineries with insufficient separation capabilities result in loss of critical minerals. Developing innovative solutions for improved separation and enhancing the abilities of smelters and refineries will lead to more recovered minerals and less waste.
Innovative practices to manage the waste generated from mineral development also can support sustainability in mining. As mining efforts are also upscaled based on increasing demand, determining novel recycling methods will reduce reliance on raw mining these finite resources (source). This includes developing new storage solutions or recycling of materials.
Green Energy Infrastructure
Off-grid mining opportunities in Northern and remote Canadian regions are dependent on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitting energy sources due to insufficient access to energy grids. The integration of renewable energy solutions across supply chains will ensure the longevity of critical mining practices, while reducing energy costs and carbon footprint. Through investments in infrastructure to support new mineral projects, access to critical minerals and metals will achieve net zero by 2050.
Government Grants Facilitating Sustainable Innovation
With the significant benefits to Canada’s economy, workforce, and our net-zero future, the Canadian government is committed to investing in the critical minerals supply. Strategic focus areas include:
- Driving research, innovation, and exploration;
- Accelerating project development;
- Building sustainable infrastructure;
- Advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples;
- Growing a diverse workforce and prosperous communities; and
- Strengthening global leadership and security.
Some available funding opportunities include:
Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund (CMIF)
A $1.5B budget provision through the Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund (CMIF) directly supports infrastructure development across the critical mineral supply chain over a 7-year period. This program aims to support projects accelerating Canada’s critical minerals production, supporting supply chains.
The current call-for-proposals is the first of several, with up to $300 million in contribution funding under two streams: the Pre-construction and Project Development Stream and the Infrastructure Deployment Stream. Eligible applicants and projects can receive up to $50 million per project for non-governmental applicants, while provincial and territorial governments are eligible for $100 million per project.
CMIF is currently open until February 29, 2024.
Critical Minerals Sustainability and Circularity
Including Canada and the United Kingdom, the Critical Minerals Sustainability and Circularity is a joint effort by both governments to bolster collaboration for industrial R&D projects. The program prioritizes projects focused on innovative products, processes, or technology-based services within critical mineral technologies.
The Canadian expression of interest deadline is waiting for a new intake period, while the international consortium project proposal deadline is on April 3, 2024.
Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)
The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) provides major investments in innovative projects which assist in the development and application of clean technologies. As a component of the Canadian Critical Minerals strategy, SIF is mandated to direct resources to critical minerals projects, mainly in the areas of mineral processing, manufacturing, and recycling. SIF will be directing up to $1.5 billion of its existing resources toward projects in clean technologies, critical minerals, and industrial transformation.
There is no application deadline for Streams 1, 2, 3, and 5. Businesses must complete a two-stage application process; however, applications may be submitted year-round.
If you are interested in the above funds speak with a member of our Canadian government funding application writing team by contacting Mentor Works, A Ryan company, for assistance in navigating critical minerals funding applications.
Get to know more about applying for government funding programs by downloading our free Guide to Canadian Government Funding programs for free.