Ottawa urged to designate silver as a critical mineral in Canada

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By Peter Kennedy

Senior mining industry representatives have sent a letter to the Canadian government calling for silver to be designated as a critical mineral, primarily because the metal is required for this country’s national transition to a sustainable low-carbon and digital economy.

The move comes after NR Can (Natural Resources Canada) opened a public commentary period for proposed updates to Canada’s Critical Minerals list and methodology, noting that a critical mineral must satisfy one of the following three criteria:

  • It must be essential to Canada’s economic or national security.
  • Is required for our national transition to a sustainable low-carbon and digital economy.
  • Contributes to Canada serving as a sustainable and strategic source of critical minerals for its international allies.

In addition, critical minerals must satisfy both of the following criteria:

  • The minerals’ supply is threatened.
  • The mineral has a reasonable likelihood of being produced in Canada.

In a letter to Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, the silver industry representatives said that while they believe that an effective argument can be made that silver meets all of the first three criteria, the most striking argument for silver as a critical mineral falls under the scope of Criterion 2 and its requirement as an input in the clean energy transition.

As such, this letter speaks primarily to silver’s merits as an enabler of the low-carbon and digital future.

The open letter is signed by Keith Neumeyer, CEO of First Majestic Silver Corp. [FR-TSX, AG-NYSE, FMV-Frankfurt], Michael DiRienzo, President and CEO of The Silver Institute and Mitchell Krebs, CEO and President of Coeur Mining Inc. [CDE-NYSE].

The executives point out in the letter that silver mining in Canada has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century. The discovery of silver deposits in places like Cobalt, Ont., and the famous Kootenay region in British Columbia sparked a silver rush, attracting prospectors and miner in search of fortune.

Over the decades, technological advancements and new discoveries in regions like the Yukon and Newfoundland further fueled the industry’s growth.

Today, Canada remains a significant player in the global silver mining industry, with ongoing commitments to sustainably and responsibly operate mines while tapping into the country’s vast silver resources. In 2022, NRCan estimated that nearly $300 million worth of silver was produced in Canada, mostly originating from British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba.

Canada produces silver as a by-product of other mining activities, namely copper, zinc, nickel, lead and gold primary mines. In 2022, Canada ranked as the world’s 13th largest silver producer. Canada is also the USA’s second largest source of silver, providing 21% of that country’s silver imports.

In part due to the modern use of silver, France identified silver as a critical mineral in a 2021 assessment reporting their findings of silver as a mineral of medium criticality to the IEA (International Energy Agency). Canada’s consideration of silver as a critical mineral would be in alignment with the Canada-France Bilateral Dialogue on Critical Minerals and would further position Canada to be a supplier of choice for critical silver with our strategic allies.

Silver has been identified as the best electrical conductor, the best metallic thermal conductor, and the best reflective material. These qualities make silver an essential and irreplaceable component for many industrial and technological applications, including solar energy, nuclear energy and electric vehicle production.

The letter can be viewed here.


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