Just as we were putting the finishing touches on this issue, one in which you will find news of rare earth elements production, a revised mining law meant to accelerate mine developments, the streamlining of engineer certification and further investment in lithium upgrading, a report arrived by email that presented an interesting lens for viewing these headlines. It came from BloombergNEF, a research group where the “N” and “E” represent new energy, and was titled “Ranking the readiness of economies to boost critical minerals supply.”

The research report scored nine countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, South Africa and the United States, as well as the European Union, to evaluate their relative preparedness to grow the supply of critical minerals such as copper, lithium and graphite. The rating was compiled from an evaluation of their mineral reserves, critical minerals strategies, political stability, talent—comprising mining salaries, education levels and gender equity—and environmental impact assessment frameworks. 

The research relied on public data such as The Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy, Statistics Canada, The World Bank, the World Economic Forum and the United States Geological Survey. Canada scored a 73. It was among the top countries for its social and government stability, its strategy and the credibility of its environmental assessment framework. 

What dragged it down was the relative size of its critical mineral reserves and how much people working in the mining industry earn as compared to the average across all industries in the country. “While Canada has reserves for seven out of the nine minerals within our consideration, its share of global reserves is less than five per cent for all of them,” the report noted. As for salaries, the Canadian mining industry, despite being 52 per cent better than the average across all sectors, was behind Australia, Indonesia, Chile and the European Union. 

This study found that Australia is the best prepared. The country’s score of 92 made Canada a distant second. “Thanks to a mature mining industry and consistent geoscientific research efforts, Australia has a variety of proven battery, base and ferrous metals reserves, with each mineral accounting for more than 10 per cent of the global total, except rare earths,” stated the report.

As a complement to this issue, I encourage you to parse the report. With all numbers meant to be definitive, there are many assumptions built into it. Whereas the researchers call for more exploration to boost our mineral reserves, the Mining Association of Canada (p. 16) highlights the need for infrastructure to help make mineral projects financially competitive propositions. While the Democratic Republic of Congo ranked the least prepared to boost output in the report, the Kamoa-Kakula copper project in DRC raced into production in 2021 and continues to expand.

Despite these quibbles, or whether you agree that Canada’s “C” grade is warranted, or if you think compensation in the United States’s critical minerals sector is accurately portrayed (I don’t), this high-level assessment and its methodology is a compelling bird’s-eye view of the international mining landscape at this critical minerals moment.