StrategyCorp November Newsletter: A Critical Moment for Minerals

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You don’t have to do much digging to see that critical minerals are currently top of mind for governments across Canada and the world. Maybe that’s because of high demand across the entire economy: beyond mining, sectors like aerospace, automotive, energy, environment, manufacturing, and technology rely on critical minerals to produce essential goods, with the need expected to grow exponentially as our economy becomes higher tech and lower carbon.

The policies behind Canada’s attempted critical mineral surge are on our minds, too.

It’s beginning to resemble a 21st century version of the space race: can Canada (and its allies) produce enough of these elements—and quickly—to secure a value chain that supports our green tech ambitions and national defence? And can we pull ahead of countries like China, the current global leader in critical minerals? What policies can get us there?

What We’re Tracking This Month


In October, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that federal environmental reviews of large mines and major infrastructure under the Impact Assessment Act are unconstitutional. Mining companies with major projects on the horizon, especially in Ontario’s Ring of Fire, are finding themselves in limbo.

  • What happens next: Well, it’s confusing. The federal government is looking at the ruling and determining whether it applies on a case-by-case basis to projects already under assessment. We expect new federal legislation to clarify the government’s role—especially with respect to Indigenous communities—but how quickly that will happen is anyone’s guess.


This fall, support for the exploration and production of critical minerals has progressed from strategies and consultations to funds that have been budgeted and are (at least metaphorically) in the bank.

  • The Feds: NRCan unveiled its Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund in October, making $1.5B available over seven years to fund both pre-construction and deployment of new mining sites and related infrastructure. The Call for Proposals came out last week, with the initial tranche of funding ticketed for shovel-ready projects that have secured all necessary permits.
  • The FES: Some of the only new money in Ontario’s Fall Economic Statement was $12M in tax credits to support exploration. The tax credit plan comes on the heels of an expanded Ontario’s Junior Exploration Program (OJEP), whose budget was beefed up to $35M the spring and applications closed this fall. It supports smaller companies in their search for critical minerals that will contribute to a domestic electric vehicle supply chain—48 companies have received money from OJEP already.
  • Yukon digs deep: In August, the Government of Yukon announced it’s investing $1.4M to support 44 mineral exploration projects through the Mineral Exploration Program in 2023 and 2024. These projects are anticipated to spend more than $4.6M on exploration this season.


Supported by industry advocacy, the province is currently working on a critical minerals strategy to provide a framework for exploration, extraction, processing, and manufacturing that includes Indigenous communities. B.C. has known deposits of 16 of the 31 critical minerals and is the top producer of copper in Canada.


In March 2022, Ontario released its Critical Minerals Strategy outlining its vision for developing not just primary extraction but also processing and refining. With enormous investments in the auto sector, Ontario is looking to develop a complete supply chain from minerals in the ground to using the refined byproducts in EV batteries. It’s a big bet on the future trajectory of multiple sectors, but one where Ontario has unique advantages to help it succeed.

  • Good policy meets good politics: You can draw a straight line between this focus on critical minerals and the significant support the Ford Government has given to the auto sector. Connecting the ambitions of Southern and Northern Ontario into an integrated supply chain from raw materials to finished cars could build a durable political coalition whose economic interests are aligned.
  • Taking a ground-up approach: Grassroots advocacy campaigns are an effective way to show the government that critical minerals policies and on-the-ground politics align. In a relatively recent example, StrategyCorp’s Groundswell program activated a host community to rally behind a critical minerals project in Northwestern Ontario. By combining viral ads, a custom-built tool for letters of support, earned media, and influential local outreach, we were able to influence public officials—and secure a challenging approval—with community-driven messages about economic development in the North.


Critical minerals are turning into a collaborative effort among friendly nations, and money being handed out to Canadian companies may not even have the Queen or King on it. The Defense Production Act of 1950 was invoked by President Biden to enable his country’s Department of Defense to fund private-sector domestic projects that extract and process critical minerals needed for electric vehicles, batteries, semi-conductors and circuit boards. But thanks to some intergovernmental jiujitsu last year, the definition of “domestic” was expanded to include Canada.

  • Things are moving quickly, with this summer’s announcement that Vancouver-based Graphite One recently received US$37M from the US Department of Defense to support a graphite mining project in Alaska. Projects can also be domiciled within Canada if they support the North American supply chain, and industry insiders believe US DoD will start awarding that funding soon, too


“Friendshoring” has become a buzzword in geopolitics, referring to an effort from Western democratic nations to locate production capacity for critical supply chains in friendly countries to avoid becoming over-reliant on imports from adversaries. Canada is on board: Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland has spoken forcefully on the topic, singling out Russia and China as threats in key global markets.

In a recent speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa, David Cohen, United States Ambassador to Canada, also spoke about cross-border cooperation on critical mineral mining, refining, and battery-making. He repeatedly remarked on the challenges of China’s dominance in the sector and highlighted the Biden Administration’s legislative accomplishments to reverse that, including the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022.

  • According to Lisa Samson: “The spending power of the Inflation Reduction Act in the US has left a lot of countries scrambling to compete. We are a country one-tenth the size of the US by population—but we are innovators, and there are a lot of great ways for Canada to maintain a strong presence in the critical minerals space. StrategyCorp has a lot of clients who want to keep their business in Canada and Canadians want to benefit from the innovation, jobs, and economic growth those projects will bring. But these companies have a duty to weigh all options, including available government funding, before making a final investment decision. We are looking for the Government of Canada to continue to invest in a timely manner in great projects from coast to coast because these investments, often repayable loans, will pay off. It may be competition among friendly nations, but it’s still competition.”
  • Flashback: SCI’s analysis from President Joe Biden’s visit last spring


Our journey for this month ends in Quebec, where Senior Advisor and former Premier Dr. Philippe Couillard compares and analyzes the approach to northern development taken in Quebec (Plan Nord) and Ontario (Ring of Fire). His policy brief reviews the two models to assess their respective benefits and challenges, and looks at whether there is an ideal approach to developing the North while respecting important principles around reconciliation and environmental protection.


All eyes in Canadian economics are set on the release of new GDP data later today!

After a small contraction in Q2, 2023, early estimates have GDP remaining “unchanged” in Q3. As high interest rates persist, slow economic growth is set to continue for the rest of 2023 and next year. In their fall economic statements, the federal and Ontario governments more than halved their real GDP projections for 2024 to 0.4 and 0.5 per cent, respectively. Both levels of government expect the unemployment rate to continue rising in 2024 to hit 6.4 per cent (up from 5.7 per cent nationally as of October).

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