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Climate advocates, indigenous tribes protest efforts to mine $67B of minerals in Canada

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Beneath a remote expanse of wilderness in Canada lies a rare mineral deposit that officials have called the world’s most important untapped source of nickel, copper and cobalt. Worth an estimated $67 billion, these metals, located in a region known as the Ring of Fire, are essential for building the batteries that power electric vehicles.

“Canada could be the world’s number one supplier of critical minerals if they get it right now,” said Simon Moores, chief executive of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. 

With both Canada and the United States aiming to phase out gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035 in favor of an electrified fleet, the value of these resources has been climbing in recent years. Retrieving them, though, will likely be challenging.

This deposit of rare minerals is buried underneath a large ecosystem of peat bogs, which hold more carbon per square foot than even the Amazon rainforest. The peatlands and forests within the Ring of Fire eat carbon out of the atmosphere, storing away about 35 billion tons, equivalent to the emissions generated annually from 39 billion cars.

“If you have any type of disturbance that has the potential to have large-scale changes to how wet the site is or the vegetation community that’s there, you’re going to reduce the ability to store carbon,” said Maria Strack, a Canada Research Chair in ecosystem and climate at the University of Waterloo who specializes in peatland emissions.

Climate advocates have warned that attempting to dig for resources on this land could result in the release of more greenhouse gases than all of what Canada emits in one year. Local indigenous tribes have also spoken out against efforts to mine the Ring of Fire, which they have referred to as a project that will destroy their lands.

“We have made it very clear time and time again. We don’t want development. We’re not happy about that. It seems like they just ignore our voice,” said Rudy Turtle, chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation. “If we have to stand up physically or take some physical action, then we’re going to do that.”

“We are threatening to destroy so many forests and peat lands that eat the carbon out of the atmosphere. The impact could be catastrophic,” said Kate Kempton, a lawyer representing indigenous groups that are suing the Ontario government to halt development at several prospective mining sites, including the Ring of Fire.

Additionally, a lack of roads leading to the area has dissuaded prior attempts to start development. Despite these concerns, some Canadian government officials remain determined to dig up these minerals.

“If I have to hop on a bulldozer myself, we’re going to start building roads to the Ring of Fire,” said Doug Ford, premier of the province of Ontario, within which the Ring of Fire is located.

“If the premier wants to get a bulldozer to cross our river system, he’s going to be met by our people,” said Wayne Moonias, chief of Neskantaga First Nation.

A similar conflict has unfolded in the United States. Geologists believe they have uncovered the world’s largest deposit of lithium, another crucial electric vehicle battery component, within the McDermitt Caldera, an ancient supervolcano along the Nevada-Oregon border. Environmental groups and Native American tribal members have voiced concerns about mining and development around the site.

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JACK AYLMER:

THE RARE-EARTH RUSH CONTINUES, WITH NEW REMOTE CORNERS OF THE WORLD BEING CONSIDERED.
ONE OF THE LATEST FLASH POINTS:
A REMOTE EXPANSE OF WILDERNESS IN CANADA.

IT’S CALLED ‘THE RING OF FIRE’ – AND UNDERNEATH THIS WILDERNESS -LIES UNTAPPED DEPOSITS OF NICKEL, COPPER, AND COBALT. 

 

WORTH AN ESTIMATED SIXTY SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS, THESE METALS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR BUILDING THE BATTERIES THAT POWER ELECTRIC VEHICLES. 

 

WITH BOTH CANADA AND THE U.S. AIMING TO PHASE OUT GAS POWERED VEHICLE SALES BY 2035, THE VALUE OF THESE RESOURCES HAS BEEN CLIMBING IN RECENT YEARS. 

 

BUT, RETRIEVING THEM LIKELY WON’T BE A SIMPLE TASK. AND EFFORTS ARE ALREADY RECEIVING PUSHBACK. 

 

THE DEPOSIT IS BURIED UNDERNEATH A LARGE ECOSYSTEM OF FORESTS AND PEAT BOGS, WHICH HOLDS MORE CARBON PER SQUARE FOOT THAN EVEN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST.

 

LOCAL GROUPS CALL IT ‘THE BREATHING LANDS’.
PULLING AND STORING AWAY ABOUT THIRTY FIVE BILLION TONS OF CARBON OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE,


THAT’S THE EQUIVALENT OF THE EMISSIONS GENERATED ANNUALLY FROM THIRTY NINE BILLION CARS. 

 

CLIMATE ADVOCATES HAVE WARNED THAT ATTEMPTING TO DIG FOR RESOURCES ON THIS LAND COULD RESULT IN THE RELEASE OF MORE GREENHOUSE GAS THAN WHAT CANADA EMITS IN AN ENTIRE YEAR.

 

LOCAL INDIGENOUS TRIBES HAVE ALSO SPOKEN OUT AGAINST EFFORTS TO MINE, SAYING THE PROJECT WILL DESTROY THE LAND. 

 

DESPITE OPPOSITION – THE REAL ROADBLOCK FOR DEVELOPMENTS HAS BEEN A LACK OF ROADS. 

 

BUT RECENTLY, GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS HAVE DOUBLED DOWN ON DETERMINATION TO DIG UP THESE MINERALS. 

 

DOUG FORD, PREMIERE OF THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO WHERE THE RING OF FIRE IS LOCATED, HAS SAID QUOTE “IF I HAVE TO HOP ON A BULLDOZER MYSELF, WE’RE GOING TO START BUILDING ROADS TO THE RING OF FIRE.”

 

THE U.S. IS SEEING A SIMILAR CONFLICT ARISE

 

GEOLOGISTS BELIEVE THEY HAVE UNCOVERED THE WORLD’S LARGEST DEPOSIT OF LITHIUM- ANOTHER CRUCIAL EV BATTERY COMPONENT-WITHIN AN ANCIENT SUPERVOLCANO STRADDLING THE NEVADA-OREGON BORDER.

 

BUT SIMILAR TO THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THE RING OF FIRE, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS AND NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES ARE RAISING CONCERNS.

 

WE’VE BEEN COVERING ISSUES RELATED TO THE MINING AND THE LIFECYCLE OF RARE EARTH MATERIALS, INCLUDING THE SO CALLED ‘WHITE GOLD RUSH’. 

 

HEAD OVER TO SAN DOT COM AND SEARCH “RARE EARTHS” TO SEE MORE.