Voiture stationnée et connectée à une borne de recharge électrique.
Voiture stationnée et connectée à une borne de recharge électrique.
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Critical and strategic minerals

Québec’s subsoil comprises a variety of critical and strategic minerals (CSMs), such as copper, graphite, niobium, zinc, cobalt, nickel, titanium and lithium. These minerals are indispensable in our everyday life and in Québec’s energy transition by contributing to the decarbonization of the economy.

Contribution of critical and strategic minerals in the energy transition

The transformation of critical and strategic minerals supports Québec’s energy and technological transition. These minerals are essential to manufacturing several “green” technologies for producing and storing renewable energy that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They are, therefore, allies in the fight against climate change by decarbonizing the economy. In addition, their ability to be recycled and upcycled promotes the circular economy.

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Learn more about their contributions to the energy transition by listening to our podcast series.

Listen to the series (in French)

Use of critical and strategic minerals

Many of our essential everyday items contain critical and strategic minerals:

  • cell phones, tablets and laptops;
  • flashlights;
  • lawnmowers and power tools;
  • rechargeable batteries;
  • sports items such as hockey sticks, tennis rackets, bicycles, golf clubs;
  • cosmetics.

In the health sector, critical and strategic minerals are used in the manufacture of various medical equipment and devices, drugs and dental devices.

These minerals are also sought after and used in innovation and artificial intelligence. For example, they can be used to design exoskeletons with electrical stimulation. These devices facilitate physical rehabilitation or the lifting of heavy loads.

Recycling and upcycling of critical and strategic minerals

The use of critical and strategic minerals will accelerate as demand grows, so reserves need to be managed carefully. Ensuring their reuse and recycling is also paramount. Québec’s approach in this area is distinguished by the importance placed on integrating the circular economy into the mining development value chain. For example, minerals can be recovered and recycled from objects already in circulation. This limits the need to extract new resources from the subsoil. Québec also relies on upcycling, that is, adding value to minerals already extracted or residues produced by resource development. Upcycling occurs in both mining and industrial projects.

Concrete examples promising for the future

Many innovative projects have been launched in Québec:

  • Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium’s Element North mill produces 99.99% pure scandium oxide from titanium dioxide by-products without the need for further ore extraction. Scandium oxide can be used to manufacture fuel cells (solid oxide) or in an alloy with aluminum used in sports equipment, for instance.
  • The Eco2magnesia project is producing the world’s first environmentally friendly magnesium oxide, created with old asbestos-bonded mine tailings.
  • Geomega This hyperlink will open in a new window. built the world’s first sustainable and clean rare earth recycling facility to meet the growing global demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy sources.
  • Lithion Recycling has developed an efficient process for recycling lithium-ion batteries, the most widely used battery in the electric car market. The project, called Lion, is funded by the Gouvernement du Québec. It recovers up to 95% of the constituents and purifies them for recovery by battery manufacturers. This is a great example of recycling that allows reusing the resource as much as possible.

By investing in research and innovation, the government is putting in place initiatives to encourage businesses to follow suit to foster a greener, more circular economy. Government programs This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French) are available to support these initiatives, as well as those for mining by-product upcycling and recycling projects, for companies in the critical and strategic minerals sector.

Promising research and innovation

Québec wants to promote promising research and innovation by using the most advanced technologies, in order to stand out on the world stage and remain at the forefront of the best practices in responsible mining development. 

A great example is the creation of a scientific research network specific to critical and strategic minerals in February 2023. This network pools the expertise of organizations and businesses to support research and innovation in the most structuring mineral sectors for Québec. Ultimately, it will help make Québec a world leader in this area.

Grants to support mineral exploration This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French) are also available. They help mining proponents to develop strategic and critical mineral exploration projects by assessing the quality of mineralizations.  

Funding for battery research and the creation of new digital and technological tools for the mass processing of geoscience data are also some of the innovative projects put forward in Québec.

Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, mining operations will increasingly be managed from the surface, from control centres. For example, the Gouvernement du Québec supports the digital transition of mining organizations and operations. These innovations will make mines safer and more competitive and will improve the industry’s energy balance.

Job creation in the mining sector

Training a skilled workforce to fill all positions in this sector is also a condition for success in developing critical and strategic minerals in Québec. 

The acquisition of new knowledge related to the exploration, extraction, processing, transformation and recycling of minerals will be used to create quality jobs and support the economic vitality of regions.

Best practices in sustainable development

As an essential player in the mining sector, Québec wants to be a leader in responsible development in the world. The government framework This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French) is based on a number of laws and regulations governing mining so that it respects the environment and promotes the social acceptability of local and Indigenous communities.

Québec mines emit fewer greenhouse gases than elsewhere in the world thanks to stringent regulations, the use of 99% renewable energy (hydroelectricity), optimal energy consumption and the best environmental standards and practices. High standards for the protection of water, air, wildlife and flora are in place. The same is true for protecting the health and safety of workers.

Since 2013, the government has required mining companies to obtain approval of a rehabilitation and restoration plan before receiving a mining lease. Companies must also provide a financial guarantee for the restoration of the entire site. Companies must return the sites to satisfactory condition at their own expense once the mining activity is completed.

Québec is also contributing to the energy transition and the fight against climate change by implementing a number of policies such as a battery sector development strategy (in French), the Politique de mobilité durable — 2030 (in French) and the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy.

Mining activities in partnership with communities

Québec has created various tools for businesses as well as local and Indigenous communities to promote the social acceptability of mining projects. One example is the early consultation process for projects. As such, proponents are encouraged to foster development conditions that respect the environment and the mining project host communities. 

Harmonious development of mining activities

In keeping with its commitments to the responsible development of its natural resources, the Gouvernement du Québec carried out a broad participatory process on the harmonious development of mining activities in the spring of 2023. 

Learn more about this participatory process This hyperlink will open in a new window.. (in French)

Last update: January 22, 2024


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