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Strengthening U.S.-Canadian Critical Mineral Resource Cooperation in the Context of an All-of-the-Above Strategy

Against the backdrop of a new government having been elected in Canada, former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson makes the case for the United States and Canada to deepen cooperation in the realm of critical mineral resources in a recent piece for the Globe and Mail.

Highlighting the longstanding “long and productive partnership on everything from defence to the economy, and today (…) making headway in crafting a continental approach to fighting climate change and improving labour standards,”Jacobson argues that “the strong relationship between the two countries is even more important as we face a potential crisis on the horizon (…)  — North America’s lack of the supply chain necessary for the extraction and refining of ‘critical minerals.’”

Former ambassadors are understandably diplomatic, but followers of ARPN will understand that we don’t see this crisis as “on the horizon” – but as a clear and present danger, to borrow a famous phrase.

Ambassador Jacobson draws parallels to the 1970s oil embargo, which resulted in global market disruptions, and says that “if a minerals crisis occurred to similar effect as the oil crisis, every technology, job, business or sector that depends on a battery, a computer chip, or high-tech alloys would be at risk.”

His bottom line:

“The good news is a solution exists, right beneath our feet. There are deposits of cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and many other critical minerals across North America, including in California, Nevada, Minnesota, Northern Ontario and Quebec. But we have not exercised the resolve to extract them or to develop the supply chain necessary to refine them here rather than ship raw materials overseas only to ship finished products back again.

It’s not just about securing the supply. Canada and the U.S. stand to see a huge benefit from these increasingly valuable resources while keeping the economic growth and job opportunities at home not just in mining and refining but, more importantly, in making all the products that rely on these critical minerals.”

It’s time to harness the special relationship between the two countries – which indeed is “more than metaphorical” as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty phrased it in a 2018 piece for Investors Business Daily— as well as frameworks for allied cooperations such as the National Technology Industrial Base (NTIB), which, originally established to strengthen technology links between the U.S. and Canada in 1993, was expanded in 2016 to include the United Kingdom and Australia.

Jacobson is right when he says: “We are in a race against time, and we cannot always count on the competition to play fair. Americans and Canadians have historically pulled together for the good of both nations in times of challenge. Such times are coming. Let’s once again plan for, face and beat this new challenge by together establishing our place in the global supply chain.”

Let’s do it. Let’s build out an integrated North American supply chain for critical minerals where possible — but let’s also not forget that closer cooperation with our friends and allies AND strengthening domestic resource development should not be considered mutually exclusive strategies.