Lithium Mine Moves Forward while Cement Plant Faces Opposition

Posted by on Jan 23, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

As we have covered in previous blogs, Canada is looking to take full advantage of the country’s natural resources that are in demand for the green economy.  Below we share news of a new project to bring more high-demand lithium to market and opposition to a cement plant, which is in high demand for wind energy.

Critical Materials Projects

In December 2022, the federal government announced that $3.8 billion has been earmarked (over eight years) to develop Canada’s critical minerals industry.  Mining.com states a significant portion of the money is, “…for constructing infrastructure for critical minerals projects in remote areas, such as the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario.  And C$40 million is set aside to support northern regulatory processes in reviewing and permitting projects.”

Of the 31 critical minerals in Canada, six minerals have been prioritized:  lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements.

James Bay Lithium Project Approved

And to that end, in January, Canada announced the approval of the James Bay lithium project in Quebec.  Lithium is in high demand for batteries to power electric vehicles.  Further, lithium demand is projected to reach 1.5 million metric tons by 2025 and over 3 million metric tons by 2030.  This 2025 forecast calls for triple the demand seen in 2021.  Electric Vehicles could account for about 84% of total lithium demand in 2030, up from about 55% in 2021 (Source: Global X).

Environmental Assessment of James Bay Lithium Bay Project

As outlined in the Decision Statement, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency conducted an environmental assessment of the James Bay Lithium Project as outlined in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.  The Agency submitted its report to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.  In the decision, it is stated that the project is, “…not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects referred to in subsection 5(2) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.”

Mining Operations

The James Bay Lithium Mine project is part of Canada’s focus on “Critical Materials Projects” (Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash).

Decision Statement includes 271 Conditions

Among the 271 conditions of the project are measures to (1) protect the health of the nearby Cree Nation population and the lands of Cree Nation, (2) protect fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, and birds at risk, and (3) protect wetlands, woodland caribous, and bats at risk.

For other recent mining news in Canada, see our September 2022 blog, “Canada Begins Supplying Rare Earth Elements.”

Cement Plant Opposed

New opposition to a Quebec cement plant was recently reported (January 2023) that appears to put a First Nation’s Community at odds with Minster, Steven Guibeault.  Cement is a key component for wind energy.

According to Cement News, “Colacem’s Canadian cement plant could face further objections.  Victor Bonspille, the Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, near Oka, Québec, wants the federal and Ontario governments to reconsider plans by Colacem to build a new cement plant near L’Orignal and for more consultation.”

Was First Nations’ Community Consulted?

According to the article, Mr. Bonspille reached out to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault.  Minster Guibeault had rejected a request for a federal Impact Assessment on November 3, 2022.  Mr. Bonspille’s letter requests that “Mr Guilbeault immediately direct the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to review the cement plant project until such time as the Crown in right of Canada has met its constitutional and legal obligations to consult with the Kanesatake community.”

The report states that the First Nation’s Community “…explicitly rejects the claim of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada that Kanesatake was consulted.”  Mr. Bonspille also told Mr. Guilbault that the Crown is in breach of its constitutional duty to consult with the community about the project.

Wind Energy and Cement Use

Wind energy requires many raw materials, including cement for the foundations.  One report states that wind turbine foundations use between 243 to 400 tons of concrete per megawatt (MW) installed.  A 2.5 MW wind turbine requires between 607 to 1,000 tons of concrete.

Wind Energy in Canada

According to the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, Canada’s installed wind and solar energy capacity has been growing rapidly.  They state that between 2009 and 2018, wind and solar energy accounted for 68% of new generation capacity additions in Canada, “…making these resources the dominant form of new capacity installed in Canada.”  As of 2020, solar and wind met approximately 6.5% of Canada’s electricity demand.

The Association reports that Canada has 317 wind-energy projects producing power across the country and that wind energy capacity grew by 5% across Canada in 2021.

Demand for cement has grown 1.6% a year between 2018 and 2023, which is faster than the overall economy.

Whether the demand for cement for wind energy was part of the decision calculus is not known.

Environmental Expertise

If you need assistance with an environmental project, soil and groundwater assessment/remediation, excess soil, litigation support, permitting, etc… contact our office at 519-948-7300.

This blog was drafted by Alan Hahn.  Alan has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and completed a graduate program in Environmental Management.  He has worked in environmental management for 45 years.  He has written hundreds of blogs and articles.  His published work includes HazMat Magazine, BizX Magazine, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, GreenStone Partners, Manure Manager Magazine, and Progressive Dairy.

This blog was reviewed by Christopher Paré, P.Geo.  Chris is a senior geoscientist and manager of Dragun’s Windsor, Ontario, office.  Chris has more than 30 years of experience on projects ranging from environmental site assessments (Phase One/Two ESA), remedial investigations, soil and groundwater remediation, Permits to Take Water, Records of Site Conditions, excess soil management, vapour intrusion, and site decommissioning.  Chris is a frequent speaker, author, and expert witness.  See Chris’ bio.

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