The federal government stepped up its commitment to battery electric vehicle (BEV) research and development in Sudbury when it was announced July 5 that more than $2 million is being invested into two BEV projects, one at NORCAT and one at Cambrian College.
The announcement was made by FedNor Minister Patty Hajdu, alongside Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, during a media event at the college.
Hajdu said the announcement for Sudbury comes at the right time just as the federal government is launching its critical minerals strategy to promote the exploration and mining of minerals of particular importance — such as lithium, cobalt, copper, molybdenum and nickel, all of which are critical for battery electric vehicles and for building the long-storage batteries required in the automotive and mining industries.
"Really, it is incredible the investments that FedNor has been making in Northern Ontario over the last year and this extra $2 million in two battery electric vehicle (projects) is a really fantastic example of the speed at which FedNor can work at and the and the vision that the agency has in investing in important projects, not just in Northern Ontario, but to Canada as a whole," Hajdu said.
She added that the money will be spent upgrading NORCAT's infrastructure as it transitions to a green operation and the grant for Cambrian College will establish a BEV laboratory within the Centre for Smart Mining.
"What an amazing intersection with the critical mineral strategy," Hajdu said.
"And I can't think of better timing for the work that's happening here at Cambrian and with NORCAT in terms of really getting the industry ready to be able to be fully mobilized in the least carbon-emitting way."
She said the aim is to make sure Canada's economy remains strong while also protecting the environment.
"And we grow our capacity in Northern Ontario to capitalize on something that many of you know in this room has been a big driver of our economy for a long time: and that's mining," Hajdu said.
Hajdu let the two local Liberal MPs make the actual funding announcements. Lapointe revealed that FedNor was providing $682,320 to Cambrian College for the creation of a new BEV lab, while Serré revealed NORCAT would receive $1,321,875 to acquire and incorporate mining equipment powered by batteries and electric motors.
Also commenting on the announcement was Greater Sudbury mayor Brian Bigger, who remarked he was proud to see the investment because it demonstrates that Canada continues to lead in BEV research and development.
"And I do believe that we have the talent in our community. We have the skills. We have so many people committed to leading these technologies and really showcasing what Canadians can do in the global space," Bigger said.
He added that Sudbury has a deep connection to the land and environment, as demonstrated by 40 years of regreening. Bigger added that later this week, Sudbury will be celebrating the planting of its ten-millionth tree.
Dr. Mike Committo, Cambrian's director of research and development, said the investment in facilities and equipment at the college was essential in letting the college work with private-sector industry partners.
"That equipment allows us to work with industry partners here in our region, to help them unlock their innovation potential,” Committo said. “Oftentimes, they come to us with a problem. They have an idea for a new process or a new product or prototype. And they get to work with our students, our faculty and our staff to solve that challenge utilizing the equipment that has been invested in us by FedNor.
"And so and even beyond the equipment FedNor has been a great partner investing in people doing a lot in allowing us to grow our capacity and to better service our industry partners here at Cambrian College."
NORCAT, the other funding recipient, will be able to continue in its goal to be the global one-stop shop for mining innovation and technology, said CEO Don Duval. He told the audience at the college the biggest part of that is the fact that NORCAT owns and operates its own underground mine in Sudbury, where new mining technology can be tested, can be refined and showcased.
Duval said the FedNor investment will allow NORCAT to acquire a full battery-electric LHD (scooptram) that can be used to train miners in real-life underground mining scenarios in all the functions and capabilities of a battery-electric scoop.
In addition to that, Duval said it will be a chance for after-market technical suppliers to test out telemetry systems, artificial intelligence systems, and autonomous operation systems on a BEV. Duval said additional testing will be done for BEV operations on mine ramps as well as cold weather and warm weather operations.
Duval said the mining industry is looking to Sudbury to find out what is new and innovative.
"The global mining industry is now taking notice not only of NORCAT, but of Canada, Northern Ontario more specifically, and that if you want to get a pulse and understand what is the future of mining, you need to get on a plane, you need to get your car, you need to be here and see it and touch it and feel it," Duval said.
Following the funding announcement, college officials took Hajdu and other speakers on a tour of the technical shops.
Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com.