About 180 kilometres from Winnipeg, below Bernic Lake in eastern Manitoba, sits one of the world’s last remaining minable deposits of cesium. The soft silvery gold-coloured metal is housed in otherworldly giant pillars that hold up the roof of the Tanco underground mine.
For stability reasons, it can’t be accessed safely, but the owner of the mine, Beijing-based Sinomine Resource Group, has potentially figured out a way to get around that: a partial drainage of the lake above, and the construction of an open pit mine.
Classified as a critical mineral in Canada and the United States, cesium is essential to the economic and national security of both countries. It has several important strategic uses, including in drilling fluid for high-pressure oil and gas wells, in medical imaging for cancer diagnostics, in timekeeping for the global mobile phone and GPS network, and in airport scanners to combat terrorism.
Already one of the few lithium producers in North America, Sinomine’s cesium strategy would see the Chinese company embed itself deeper into the continent’s critical minerals supply chain.
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