Just as the discovery of oil in Texas fuelled the U.S. economy for a century and a half, so will the critical minerals of Northern Ontario fuel the electric vehicle economy of this province in the years to come.
That was part of the message Wednesday when Ontario Mines Minister George Pirie spoke to the second annual BEV-In-Depth conference being held to promote the battery electric vehicle industry in Sudbury and the rest of Ontario.
Pirie’s speech was nothing short of a rally-the-team pep talk for Northern Ontario mining.
The BEV event is on at Cambrian College with hundreds of delegates gathered to discuss how Sudbury can best take advantage of the economic opportunities provided by the growth of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in both the automotive and mining sectors.
Battery electric vehicles require energy from large new-technology batteries that are created using critical minerals such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and graphite.
Pirie said Northern Ontario stands to reap the rewards of the global push toward clean energy and green energy.
"Because we have the fuels of the future right here, that are going to be powering the electric vehicle revolution that we see happening right now," he said.
“And it's happening in Northern Ontario, in our backyard. Folks, you’ve got to be very proud of what you're doing; the industry you're involved with. Because your children are going to be talking about this," Pirie added.
Pirie said one of the key factors for the Ontario mining industry is that it has the experts, the knowledge and technology to do mining the right way with the rest of the world watching.
"This is a pivotal moment in our history. And it starts with mining. The minerals have to come out of the ground, and how are they going to come out? They're going to come out in a sustainable fashion. The definition of sustainable development means that you meet the requirements of the current generation without sacrificing the needs of the next generation," said Pirie.
Another important factor, Pirie said, is that Canada has a secure supply chain and is able to deliver the minerals that industry needs without worrying about things such as the war in Ukraine and other geopolitical tensions.
Pirie added that despite the criticisms over Bill 71, otherwise known as the Building More Mines Act, Ontario will still stay true to a couple of important considerations; meeting Indigenous concerns and the environment.
"We won't sacrifice anything on the duty to consult. We won't sacrifice anything. In fact, there is not a word changed in Bill 71 on two very, very important points: the duty to consult and our environmental regulations. Because we won't let them be changed or harmed because we know how to mine correctly," said Pirie.
Pirie also spoke enthusiastically about other energy forms such as hydrogen cell technology and the importance of mining rare earth minerals. He said those will come about soon enough with changes and improvements in technology.
Pirie wrapped up his address by ensuring the audience that "this is our time" for Northern Ontario and the mining industry.
Pirie said more and more experts are visiting the North because they know it offers.
"You can be a bit excited when those people come into our towns and your towns to talk about the future that they envision in Northern Ontario, in Sunbury, in Timmins and in Thunder Bay. It's happening right now. This is our time."
Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com.