As we outlined in our last post, the Biden Administration’s strategy to secure critical mineral supply chains, as outlined in its just-released 100 Day Supply Chain Report, embraces an “all of the above approach.” While strengthening sustainable mining and processing domestically, the Administration will also rely on partnerships with our closest allies — and of those, most notably, Canada.
In that context, a region that, in spite of its storied mining history — does the Klondike gold rush ring a bell? — and its vast mineral potential has rarely made headlines in the U.S. may come into focus going forward: The Yukon.
Writes Yukon economist Keith Halliday in an opinion piece for Yukon News:
“Yukoners have long been fortunate to live in a geopolitical backwater. The Yukon generally doesn’t make it into the President’s Daily Brief. If you run into a foreign correspondent with a sat-phone in Whitehorse, it’s because they’re going canoeing with friends on the Snake. (…)
But could we actually benefit from today’s rising tensions, as China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy prompts democratic countries to look for strategically secure sources of raw materials? After the recent G7 summit, where leaders discussed a more unified China strategy, both the Biden Administration and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen talked about the role Canadian resources could play.
There is the possibility that the Yukon could benefit from the desire among Canada’s allies to find secure sources of strategic minerals.”
Indeed, the region’s mineral potential is vast, to the point that it made the top 10 of the Fraser Institute’s list of most attractive mining jurisdictions as recent as 2018.
Halliday argues that the fact that Europe and the United States are looking to diversify their mineral resource supply chains away from China amidst growing geopolitical tensions “is good news for Yukon mining projects whose ores are on US and European lists.”
“However,” as he notes, “that list does not include some of the most commonly mined minerals in the Yukon, such as copper or gold.”
While it is true that Copper did not make the U.S. Government’s official list of critical minerals in 2018, the Biden Administration’s 100 Day Report acknowledges Copper as an integral component of Lithium-ion battery technology, both in the context of being what we have called a “gateway metal” to other critical materials, and for its “use across many end-use applications aside from lithium-ion cells, including building construction, electrical and electronic products, transportation equipment, consumer and general products, and industrial machinery and equipment.”
With that, the Yukon’s appeal may be on the rise.
As perhaps it should be, given geopolitical developments this week that put five Chinese companies operating in Xinjiang Province on the U.S. Government’s sanctions list for using forced labor at the province’s quartz mines to produce polysilicon for the solar power sector. With Yukon’s many quartz deposits, the territory may draw attention from companies in the solar sector seeking a new source of polysilicon, produced under Canada’s exacting environmental, health and safety standards.
Whatever metals or minerals may come to define a new tech metals Yukon “gold” rush, Halliday cautions, though: “We should also remember that there are still many other countries who will be happy to host mining projects if Yukon properties get tied up in extensive permitting and approval processes.”
And permitting is an area that has seen the territory drop in the Fraser Institute rankings in recent years, with the latest report citing a mining company executive as stating “Permitting approval processes in the Yukon are a major concern for investors.”
“If we don’t ensure our mining approval processes allow high-quality, environmentally-sound projects to be permitted in a timely way, we will end up missing out on both the economic benefits of strategic mining as well as the opportunity to help our allies secure their mineral supplies.”
Suffice it to say, ARPN will add the Yukon to our watch list for critical mineral resource developments (pun intended). You should, too.