Delving into critical minerals: What Canada can learn from the Australian experience – by Andrew Pickford (MacDonald-Laurier – April 19, 2022)


The emergence of “critical minerals” is forcing a rethink in foreign investment, defence strategy, industry policy and global supply chains throughout the Western world. While numerous white papers and strategy documents have been developed, national approaches vary depending on institutions, national priorities and, most importantly, natural resource endowment.

The classification of critical minerals varies in each country, but they generally fall under what has been traditionally understood as strategic commodities. Contemporary interest in critical minerals is driven by two main trends.

First, the transformation of the energy and industrial sectors that requires a different mix of inputs than traditional manufacturing. Second, the increase in trade barriers and autarkic policies that create vulnerabilities and new choke points.

Dealing with critical mineral vulnerabilities is challenging and confusing, not least due to the alphabet soup of categories and abbreviations only fully understood by metallurgical experts. Responding to this new reality in an open, free-market economy is difficult as it requires a recalibration of trade and industrial policy. Australia may offer insights for Canada given their common cultural and political heritage and similar economic structures based on bulk commodity exports.

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