The true cost of critical minerals – by Emilie Cameron, Rosemary Collard & Jessica Dempsey (National Observer – May 2, 2024)

The 2024 federal budget bolsters Canada’s ambitions to be a global supplier of critical minerals. Corporate tax incentives and shorter environmental review periods have been added to an earlier commitment of $4 billion in support of mining copper, lithium and other minerals essential to green technologies like e-vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines.

Amid a global scramble to secure critical minerals supply chains, Canada is highlighting its environmentally sustainable approach to extraction, anchored in “respect for Indigenous and treaty rights.” What does all this look like on the ground?

Kudz Ze Kayah (KZK) mine in southeast Yukon is a test case: one of the first critical mineral mines to be approved since Canada released its Critical Minerals Strategy in 2022. After a highly contentious environmental review and multiple legal challenges, the Yukon and federal governments approved the open-pit copper/lead/zinc project last month. Kudz ze kayah means “caribou country” in the Kaska Dena language — an ironic name for a mine that is opposed by Kaska First Nations and could drive the Finlayson caribou herd to extinction.

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