Thank you, Mr. McLean and others, for joining us today, and thank you to all our witnesses.
This is meeting number 15 of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. I'm glad to see we have three witnesses with us today, joining us virtually.
I will just let you know the process. This is a virtual meeting, and they run very smoothly. We have all gotten the hang of these, but there can be little bumps along the way. I believe you've been briefed on the technical aspects of your participation. At the bottom of your screen you should have a little button that says English or French, which you can use for translation. There's a mute button, which you should keep on unless you are speaking or answering questions.
Because we're on Zoom, when someone is talking, please let them finish before you start talking. That will make things easier for all of us, but particularly for the interpreters. I thank everybody in advance for their patience.
To the witnesses, you each have five minutes to make your opening remarks. One of my jobs is to keep track of time, which necessitates my interrupting you sometimes if you're going over the time limit for your initial presentation or with respect to questions and answers after that, so I will apologize for that in advance.
We have three witnesses. We have Professor Coates from the University of Saskatchewan. We have Grand Chief Abel Bosum of the Cree Nation Government. From Rio Tinto, we have Nigel Steward.
Professor Coates, why don't we start with you, sir?
Good morning, Mr. Chair, and thank you very much, committee members. It's a real privilege to have the chance to speak to you.
The issue of mineral supply and uncertainty in the Canadian mining industry is one of critical importance to the country as a whole. Let me start off with this observation. There's a general perception, as we look at important issues of climate change and economic retrenchment, that somehow the resource sector is in decline. The reality is very different.
In fact, with the imperatives of 2021, we have solar and wind power installations, mass digitalization, transit development and electric vehicle production. We're investing billions of dollars in renewing our energy infrastructure. In fact, what we have is a higher priority than ever on rapid, reliable and cost-effective mineral production.
Let me divide my comments into two areas. One is disadvantages and concerns. The other is opportunities and advantages for Canada.
Very quickly, obviously the uncertainty of the Chinese market in terms of mineral production and demand is critical. There is also a very strong disconnect between the environmental movement in Canada and internationally and its anti-development instincts in mineral production, which costs an awful lot of time and energy.
We underestimate the scale and intensity of global mineral demand. I spent a lot of time in Asia, and the escalation in demand is dramatic, particularly in critical mineral sectors, because of computerization and what have you.
We also have to address, in Canada, that we're not alone in this game and that there are many supply options, particularly in the developing world. Those areas have more complex issues and sometimes less favourable environments for human rights protections, environmental protections and what have you.
In Canada, we have some serious shortcomings in northern infrastructure. It's limited and it takes too long to develop. We move very slowly in that regard.
I'm very concerned about the regulatory burden and the time to development. I was talking to some officials in Ottawa who seem to suggest that the length of time it takes to make a decision is a proxy for a good decision and that the longer time frame actually necessitates a better decision. I'm not convinced of that, and I think there's some good evidence running counter to that.
We're also overly sensitive to criticism about resource development. This is a key priority for Canada, and we have to find a middle ground. Let's talk openly about what happens with our current system—the costs of delays, the time required to get permission, the direct expenses involved for companies and how that adds to their total cost structures, and the scale of abandoned and deterred investments. We're losing a lot of opportunity because we're becoming less competitive.
We have to also find a way to stop redrafting our regulations and requirements. We have fairly imprecise guidance from some pieces of our legislation at the federal, territorial and provincial levels.
We also need to reconcile the reality of Canada as a natural resource superpower with the lack of national commitment to the field. We don't see resource development as being particularly attractive or compelling these days. I think it's fair to say that our country's urban areas, which are very powerful and very appropriately powerful, are disconnected from the sector.
What about the other side? What about the advantages and opportunities in the natural resource sector and critical mineral development?
We have some of the best discovered and potential mineral deposits in the world, including in some of the more rare earth minerals and things of that sort. Canada has the minerals that this country needs and wants.
Put aside my comments about the decision-making process—put them in a box for a second—and look at the outcomes. The outcomes are that our regulatory and environmental standards are actually first-rate and very appropriate. How we get to those standards may be questionable. We can do better on the decision-making and the development structure, but we do really well on setting the baseline in terms of environmental protection and socio-cultural protection.
To a degree that we don't talk about enough, Canada has the most impressive mining sector in the world. We have enormous access to capital. We have remarkable technical expertise. There's a global reach for what we do as a sector, and our corporate structures are quite flexible.
Let me deal with one that I think is really important, and I know we're going to have a chief speaking to this more directly than I will.
On the engagement and participation of indigenous peoples, you'll notice I did not put that as a barrier. In contrast to the standard explanation, indigenous communities are not a major barrier. They are simply not. There are hundreds of agreements and some truly impressive partnerships.
In your committee I suspect you've been talking about Voisey's Bay in Labrador, Cameco in northern Saskatchewan, the Tahltan first nation in British Columbia and Tr'ondëk first nation in the Yukon. The country should not blame indigenous communities for delay.
Let me quickly wind up with strategies for where we can go from here. How do we protect the environment, respect indigenous aspirations and encourage investment? How do we do this properly?
Number one, I would invite the Government of Canada to sit down with indigenous communities and mining representatives and review the regulatory regime. We need to be a world leader in appropriate and expeditious project review and approval, and we are not that right now. We can do much better.
Let's focus on creating opportunities for indigenous equity in the mining sector. Provide indigenous communities with a seat at the table, and you will discover that the decision-making process has improved quite dramatically.
Let's talk openly. I would think that the standing committee is an excellent example of this. Let's talk openly about the nature of critical minerals, explain the global market requirements and talk to the country about how important the mineral sector is in the 21st-century economy and the particular value of critical minerals. That's absolutely essential.
Let's also talk about the fact that these resources are absolutely critical—
I would first of all like to express my appreciation for being asked to participate in this committee hearing. This is certainly a topic that we welcome, as it has important implications for the way in which Canada broadly deals with situations where there is an intersection of resource development proposals and indigenous traditional lands.
As you may know, the territory of Eeyou Istchee in the James Bay region of northern Quebec comprises approximately 400,000 square kilometres. This territory has, over the years, been the object of many resource development projects in the sectors of energy, mining and forestry.
Indeed, it was the announcement of the James Bay hydroelectric project in the 1970s that created the circumstances for negotiating the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which was signed in 1975. This agreement is our treaty. Over the past 45 years, we have built upon our treaty to gradually expand the role and the jurisdiction of our communities within our traditional territory, while at the same time improving the living conditions of our people.
The Province of Quebec has historically positioned itself to become an investment-friendly province for the mining industry. By and large, the mining industry has found Quebec to have a favourable regulatory and financial landscape. This has been inviting to many mining companies for exploring and developing mines.
Currently, as in many places throughout Canada and elsewhere, there is a significant drive to identify, explore and develop mines to bring to market those metals and minerals that will play a significant role in the production of batteries with very substantial capacity for storage of electricity. Vanadium, which exists in a number of places within our traditional territory, is one such metal.
Within our traditional territory, there are also several very active operations engaged in exploration and development for lithium, which is an element that has widespread use in current battery technology. Because much of the world's deposit of lithium is concentrated in less politically stable countries, there has been particular interest in identifying and exploiting the lithium deposits found in Quebec. There are currently five lithium projects at various stages of review and environmental assessment in our region. There has been significant talk about the potential for our region to actually become the battery of the north.
We are witnessing and we are becoming the focal point of the convergence of a shift to cleaner energy, the greening of industry operations, the growing environmental consciousness of consumers, the search for strategic minerals and the recognition that indigenous peoples may indeed have a serious contribution to make to our collective understanding and thinking about sustainable development.
The Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee has spent many decades struggling with both the province and the federal government to secure acknowledgements of our indigenous rights and our treaty rights. It is now open to serious engagement with resource development proponents wishing to carry out activities on our traditional territory.
We have secured the recognition by Quebec that all resource development projects proposed to take place on our traditional territory must go through the social and environmental impact assessment process outlined in our treaty. It is a process that must take into account our people's environmental and social concerns. It would result in our involvement in such proposed projects, including environmental monitoring, employment, training, contracting and financial benefits.
We are at a point now where we have built and maintained a relationship with Quebec in the spirit of co-operation and with the objective of creating opportunities for our people and bringing home the benefits. The latest example of this can be found in La Grande Alliance of February 2020. It is an MOU that we signed with Premier Legault that creates a network of Cree and government organizations working together on the design and implementation of protected areas, transportation, communications and energy infrastructure to achieve the balance promised under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
We have much work ahead of us, but this new approach can shift the paradigm that has for too long imposed challenges in balancing development and protecting our traditional territory, which remains essential to the livelihood of our Cree Nation.
As the La Grande Alliance MOU demonstrates, we are open to engaging with the mining industry, an engagement in the context of our treaty and the environmental and social impact assessment regimes embedded in our treaty. It is through this regime that we assess the social acceptability of the projects. It is through this regime that we give expression to the notion of free, prior and informed consent.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of the committee and fellow witnesses.
My name is Nigel Steward and I am the head of group technical for processing for Rio Tinto worldwide.
Rio Tinto is the second-largest mining company in the world and the largest mining company in Canada, with operations coast to coast to coast, from our world-class aluminum operations in Kitimat in British Columbia and in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint Jean region, to our Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories, to our iron ore operations in Labrador. We have a truly national footprint, with exploration activities across the country.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to discuss the important topic of critical minerals with you today. As Pierre Gratton pointed out in his earlier testimony to the committee, Canada's mining and manufacturing sector will be critical to achieving the federal government's 2030 climate change goals and the transition to a zero-carbon future by 2050.
Rio Tinto has climate targets for 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement, and our goal is to reach net-zero emissions in our operations by 2050. We don't know what that path to 2050 looks like yet, but we know it will and must include a secure supply of critical minerals, be they battery metals such as lithium, cobalt and copper, or rare earth metals like scandium or other critical elements like gallium.
Today I would like to focus my remarks on what Rio Tinto likes to call “full-value mining”.
When we think of mining, we immediately think of primary mining or greenfield plays, but increasingly we are discovering that many of the critical minerals we need to facilitate this clean transition can and are being found in existing mining operations, in waste streams and mine tailings. Full-value mining is all about extracting as much value as possible from the ore bodies that we mine.
In our aluminum operations in Quebec, for example, we have invested many years of R and D to create a new process that basically separates out our residues into their component parts. We have been able to monetize what would have been deemed waste in the past, so that there is both an economic and an environmental benefit. Today, in our aluminum business in Quebec, 85% of the 400,000 tonnes of waste is now fully recovered in the form of multiple products that are sent to customers.
Another great example of full-value mining is what we've been able to do with our Rio Tinto Fer et Titane metallurgical facility in Sorel-Tracy, in Quebec, which extracts high-quality titanium dioxide feedstock, iron, steel and metal powders all from ilmenite. Using our processing know-how and R and D capabilities, we have figured out a way to extract scandium, one of the rarest critical minerals. We do this from our waste streams.
In January we announced that Rio Tinto would become the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, with the construction of a new commercial-scale demonstration plant.
Scandium provides us with an alloying element for aluminum. It creates new possibilities for scandium-aluminum alloyed products in applications like aerospace and defence, because scandium is unique. It's one of the few elements that increases both the strength and toughness of aluminum alloys.
Rio Tinto is investing $6 million in the construction of a first module in the plant, with an initial capacity to produce three tonnes of scandium oxide per year, or approximately 20% of the current global market.
Those are just two Canadian examples of how we are pushing the boundaries of traditional mining to extract the full value from the mineral stream. We have other examples in the U.S. as well, including a pilot project at our boron mine in California that will extract lithium from a waste stream there.
At the end of the day we need steel, aluminum, copper, cobalt and titanium. All of these elements are necessary for our collective growth and well-being. As miners, our job is not only to find these minerals but to extract them in as sustainable a way as possible. It is this desire, along with the recognition that we cannot address the challenge of climate change without minerals and metals, that pushes us more and more towards full-value mining with the lowest environmental and carbon footprint possible.
Many thanks for your attention, and I am happy to take any questions you may have.
I guess my first observation would be that, in one sense it's early days. When the mining regime was brought in, it wasn't overly specific. It set out more broad contours, and it's a work-in-progress. Resource companies that I've been talking to in recent years have spoken about the flexibility of the IA process, the fact that federal officials are looking for ways to improve it and to actually see it implemented.
I would lump that process into a 15-year history of what I call “over-regulation” of the industry. We have this idea that if we do more and more regulation, more and more surveys, and more and more evaluations, it will result in somewhat better outcomes. I think that's still a testable proposition and not necessarily one that's been proven yet.
We spend a phenomenal amount of money investigating these opportunities. It takes a lot of time to do it and a lot of the money that goes into it doesn't go to the local community, it doesn't go to the local first nation and it doesn't even go to the province. It goes to broader entities. I'm really concerned, to be honest. I think we should look at expediting the outcomes and focusing on the final product.
Are we actually getting safer and better mines? We do really well in producing safe mines and we do really well in ameliorating some of the social and cultural effects, but I'm not sure those more positive outcomes are due to the length, time and cost of the regulation.
Sometimes we can find them in the tailings themselves, but more often what we find is that they separate at and become available in the processing of the core mineral that we're trying to extract. For example, you might have a liquor at some point in your process that contains a high amount of gallium or a high amount of scandium. This is what we're doing, for example, in the case of scandium in Rio Tinto Fer et Titane in Sorel-Tracy. It's there in solution in one part of our process, and we're extracting it rather than sending it out to a tailings facility.
Similarly, we can find, in the extraction of aluminum bauxite in our aluminum business in what we call the Bayer liquor.... After we've dissolved all of the alumina into the liquor, we can pick up gallium and vanadium, for example, that are co-dissolved at the same time. We can put processes in place to extract the material then.
We're doing some other things. For example, in the United States in copper at our facility in Salt Lake City, Rio Tinto Kennecott, we're looking at extracting things like rhenium and tellurian above all of the other things that we extract there. Not only do they extract copper, for example, from that ore body, but they also extract gold, silver, molybdenum and lead. It's looking at what more we can extract within our existing processes, rather than sending all of those elements to tailings.
I live a stone's throw from the plant in Arvida, the town next door. My father spent his life there before the Rio Tinto takeover. I know a little about aluminum production, because it's a fairly significant sector in my region.
In your presentation, you spoke about value-added mining. That's an important factor. A number of stakeholders have told us that the key factor for critical minerals is the value chain. You want to be able to do secondary and tertiary processing. It would be unfortunate if the primary resources were extracted and sent to China and if China were the one to create the jobs.
I have a small concern because, for the past 30 years, we've been talking about secondary and tertiary aluminum processing. However, Rio Tinto has never made a firm commitment in this area. On the contrary, Rio Tinto has backed away from it. It had a rolling mill, which is now gone. Rio Tinto has backed away from secondary processing. It's currently just producing primary aluminum without supporting the cluster. I find that troubling.
I want to know how you can ensure that you'll fulfill the commitment to value-added mining. How can you ensure that you'll support the secondary and tertiary processing of critical minerals in Quebec?
I'd like to thank the witnesses today.
Grand Chief Bosum, I'd like to give you a chance to continue on in that vein, but in particular, I'm interested in hearing your comments on the impact assessment process you've developed in the Cree agreement. I guess that dates back to the James Bay agreement. I know that my former colleague Romeo Saganash was involved with that for many years.
Perhaps you could tell us more about that impact assessment process, maybe with some comment on what Professor Coates was talking about—how some of these impact assessment processes go on needlessly and take too long. Is there some sense that your process in the James Bay area is more.... I don't want to say “streamlined”, but does it save time to speak to the people on the land, or...?
I'll let you answer that. Then I'll probably have some follow-up questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Cannings.
Just to continue, what I was about to say was that recently we signed the memorandum of understanding with Mr. Legault with the objective of trying to balance resource development with some of the traditional Cree concerns related to the environment and lands. Of course, the question is always how you facilitate development in the territory.
What we must understand is that the land and environment are central to Cree people and perhaps indigenous people right across Canada. When we begin discussions, we find that it is always important to talk about the land and environment first. That is one of the reasons that in the memorandum of understanding you will see that our objective was to negotiate protected areas. Once we can identify these and protect them, then it's easier to look at the infrastructure for resource development and, therefore, minimize the impact of resource development regardless of what it may be.
This is really a change in the way that we've been doing things. In the past, we've always been reacting to development. It comes to our door, and then we have to react. The MOU we're looking at is really the design for what northern Quebec could look like over the next 30 years with the Cree people being active participants in it.
While at the moment we're carrying out feasibility studies on the various types of infrastructure needs, both for industry and for our communities, at some point there will be a project. I don't know what kind of project, but once it's defined as a project, then it is subject to the environmental impact assessment. Usually, if the project has been dealt with at the community level for some time, and people understand the project and accept the project, then of course the environmental impact technical process is a little easier to do because the industry leader has reached an agreement with the community or the nation so that there is acceptability.
The regime that we have in section 22 really helps not only with the process for the project but also with defining the project to allow the Cree to participate if there are ways to improve it or to minimize the impact. At the end of the day, it's a win-win for the Cree people, the industries and the governments.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you, witnesses.
Grand Chief, thank you for being with us today. I appreciate what you've brought up. We have lots of potential here in Canada, and you talked about the potential investment and potential of indigenous communities benefiting from some of these developments, the mining developments.
I'm up in northern B.C. with oil and gas. It's huge. It dramatically affects our indigenous populations in a positive way, bringing economic activity to really everybody in the north, but we see this challenge. We heard from Mr. Coates, who talked about this endless delay in the regulatory approval process.
I have just a simple question: How can we do better as regulators to make this process better?
There have been other answers given in part to that question, but can I start with Grand Chief Bosum? How can we do better as regulators with these projects, to see us get across the finish line sooner?
Yes. I think we've come a long way with certain companies in Canada, too. It used to be that first nations weren't consulted until halfway through the process.
To me, it has come a long way. Again, it depends on the company, but in having those conversations with the indigenous communities that are going to be affected right from the start of those negotiations, I have seen the ones that do that have mutual respect for each other and success as a result.
I want to talk to Mr. Coates and Mr. Steward about the same question. We were talking earlier about this. Previously, in about 2011 to 2015, we had a pretty solid approval process that projects would go through, and they had a 24-month period as a timeline to get from start to finish. It was better for certainty, it was better for investment and it was better for everybody around, but we have slipped from that timeline quite a bit.
My simple question to you is this: Where is Canada in the approval process for projects globally? Certainly Canada is not the only country that has resources, but where do we stack up in terms of that timeline?
Mr. Coates, you referred to that first in your statement, so maybe I will ask you.
Sure. I'll give you a brief answer.
There are some countries that have almost no regulations and controls. In fact, they allow almost a free market type of approach, so that the companies themselves put the limits. In fact, Canadian companies are very good at this. They notionally apply a Canadian standard to their activities and operations, but that's not the government imposing those limits. It's the mining companies doing it.
There are places like Scandinavia that are actually reintroducing their mining sector, and they are coming to Canada to see how we are doing. Australia is a lot faster. Russia is a lot faster, not a bad example. Mongolia and China, these countries are faster. They're not role models.
My point would be that we can do an awful lot better. We can basically do it by starting where you mentioned, letting people know how much it costs for these delays to occur and letting them know how many projects have disappeared because, in fact, the mining company looks at it and says that it is too risky for the kind of time frame they have.
Mr. Coates, you've talked about it as well, that a more lengthy process isn't necessarily a better one. We've seen this. It has been part of the project history where I'm from, where these projects sometimes go through a 10-year process, and finally, by that particular time, the project is no longer even viable.
Can you explain a bit about what you meant? I believe, as do probably many in this meeting today, the world needs more Canada, not less. Certainly we have the best environmental standards and the best human rights standards in the world. Again, we need to develop our resources here, not only develop them but value-add and do as many parts of that process in Canada as we can before we export that product.
Can you explain the statement you made earlier, that a lengthy process isn't necessarily a better one?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for appearing before us today.
Mr. Coates, those were interesting comments you made about how we should proceed, certainly when we talk about assessments and regional assessments. I know that's one of the things that our government has brought forward. Actually, one of the initial ones is in the Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario, where there is a regional assessment being done right now by ECCC to make sure that the baselines are there. Your suggestion is something that has been heard many times by the department federally, and it's certainly a way to move forward.
I know that Mr. Zimmer talked about how we can get indigenous participation up front, not at the tail end. I fully agree with him. That is the way. In any successful project, that's what they've done and that's what we've also tried to integrate into the impact assessment, the new review process. I don't want to get into a debate as to CEAA 2012 and the new impact assessment—as you said, it's early days—because we're here to talk about critical minerals, although this is part of it, certainly.
I'd like to chat with Mr. Steward with respect to Rio Tinto. It's an international company and a very large company. The purpose of the discussion here is how we ensure that the supply chain of our minerals and metals is secured in Canada and how we go about maximizing it, getting all the value added that we can in Canada.
Obviously, as an international company, that's not really your focus. Your focus is obviously on getting the best value for your efforts. Can you give us a sense of what's going on in Australia and maybe in other jurisdictions where they're having these discussions? Can you share that with us? These discussions are not just in Canada right now but all over the world.
We want to protect all of these minerals and metals as much as we can to ensure them for our renewables industry and obviously for our battery industry. As we electrify our world, this is so critical. Can you give us a bit of insight into what's going on elsewhere?
As you've said, there's activity everywhere. I think there's quite a big rare earths play in Australia at the moment. Also, there's been a lot of interest in lithium there as well.
When you look around the world, you can see that the world's geological deposits aren't evenly distributed. We go to the countries where the minerals are, and every country has its comparative advantages because of that.
When I look at Canada, I think Canada has some unique advantages when you think about the future. We are finding a lot of these critical minerals within our ore bodies that we're exploiting already, so I think just continuing with that type of work, as I've explained.... Also, when we start to think about steel-making for the future, for example, and the zero-carbon steel-making process, this is something that's of big interest to us as a company, because we provide a lot of iron ore. One of the best iron ore deposits that's best suited to those future steel-making technologies exists in Newfoundland and Labrador at Iron Ore of Canada.
You can see that there are these sorts of relative comparative advantages, and they're geological in nature.
I'll continue along the same lines as my colleague, Mr. Lefebvre.
I have a question for you, Mr. Steward.
You said earlier that you can't do secondary or tertiary processing because of the ecosystem, which is mostly based in the United States. My concern, in terms of critical minerals, is that the same ecosystem will be established again, where the transformation won't take place here. As a large company, you also have a responsibility. As a member of Parliament, when it comes to aluminum and critical minerals, I'm interested in the creation of jobs here.
You spoke about ELYSIS earlier. As we know, the new technology will require fewer employees. It's annoying for a member to make announcements that mean fewer jobs in the region. I imagine that you agree with me.
In your view, how can Rio Tinto ensure that, in clusters such as the aluminum or critical metals cluster, there are jobs in the communities where the industries are located?
I think I will continue with Mr. Steward.
Unlike Mr. Lefebvre, I have only one big smelter in my riding, and that's the Teck smelter at Trail, a big lead and zinc smelter. It produces some rare elements in the same way that you were mentioning, Mr. Steward. I think it's mainly germanium and indium that they produce. They're one of the world's top producers of those commodities. Again, it's small amounts, but they're very important, very valuable commodities.
Rio Tinto is a big worldwide company—one of the biggest. I'm wondering if you have any examples elsewhere in the world that Canada could follow.
How does Canada's strategy around critical minerals, critical metals, compare with, let's say, Australia's strategy? What could the federal government be doing to make it easier for us to find these materials and to create those value chains, as you seem to be doing with scandium in Quebec?
From our perspective, there were conversations earlier about permitting and getting projects going, I think, at the very beginning. We're finding that actually Canada is very good relative to other parts of the world. What's particularly important in the speed is not so much the structure of the legislation, on which Canada is actually very good and very thorough. It is about building trust with all of the stakeholders involved and moving quickly there.
Building that trust and working collectively together, particularly with first nations in the case of Canada, is very critical. It's all about trust. It's the trust that actually builds the speed. This is why, when there are failures of trust, you have to go back and redo things, and that forms the delays.
I also think that one useful thing Canada has, which is pretty unique—and we applied it in Diavik mine—is that the operating permit right from the very beginning not only looked at the development of the mine itself, to get it operating, but also had to include what the plans were for the closure at the end. We're looking at the environment in a holistic way. I think that's the other unique thing we see in Canada.
In terms of encouraging the industry, really what it comes down to is the quality of the ore bodies. That means good exploration. Canada is very open to exploration. We find Canada to be very open and very good when it comes to exploration. We have many ongoing exploration activities in Canada.
You've asked me a sensitive question, sir.
Let me put it this way. It's the main point of that article. Indigenous folks were on the outside looking in on resource development for 150 years. In fact, devastating results followed. Some of the situations were horrible with mines that were developed on indigenous territories.
Over the last 15 years, through duty to consult and accommodate legislation, treaty rights and things of that sort, indigenous folks have emerged as a major part of the natural resource economy. You get a situation in Canada right now where we're seeing these things in very stark terms. They're the wrong terms, saying that while resource development is bad, we're going to have some new economies that are good. Well, the new economy requires resource development. You know in this committee this is absolutely essential.
However, for goodness' sake—and this is my strongest observation—indigenous people are active and enthusiastic participants in carefully done resource development. They want to be part of the process. They're desperate for own-source revenues. They want the jobs. They want the commercial opportunities, and they want to protect the environment. We must be really careful to protect that.
The oil and gas industry has sort of moved off-line. The indigenous involvement in the oil and gas industry has been spectacular over the last 10 to 15 years, and now it's going to become at risk because the country as a whole is underestimating the long-term economic value of oil and gas.
Let's make sure we listen to indigenous people, and not just those indigenous people who favour a very strong environmentalist agenda.
It makes us wary, for sure, of investing in a brand new mine that would produce rare earths, because of that level of volatility. This is why we have looked at being creative and looked at what rare earths sit within our ore bodies today and whether we can extract them already.
Fundamentally, the main metal or mineral we are extracting in our mines today is what keeps the mine going and surviving, and it has that low-cost position. Basically, we are creating the extraction of these additional rare earths within a fundamentally stable business. That's the way we can guard against that.
You raise a very interesting point: Is there something that governments can do to create stability of price and stability of demand, given that these minerals are so critical for countries?
For example, Canada, the U.S. and Australia are working together in the critical mineral space to try to create a sort of geopolitical stability in supply, an indigenous supply of critical minerals. Is there something that governments can do to create this stability and encourage and favour more indigenous production of these critical minerals going forward?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank all of the witnesses for being here.
One of the challenges with going a little later in the order is that a lot of the questions I had have been answered, so I wanted to circle back on a couple of things to maybe give the witnesses a few more moments to elaborate on some of the things they maybe got cut off on a little too early by our fantastic chair.
I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I mean no offence.
I want to maybe start with Grand Chief Bosum. You talked in your opening remarks about being the battery of the north. I want to continue a little with that theme. MP McLean just talked about things like what is stopping this from happening and what some of the challenges are.
Really boiling it down, what is your greatest headache with this? What are the biggest challenges right now that you have that are getting in the way of this?
Yes, I'd like to further comment.
Just to clarify which motion we're talking about here, this is the motion regarding the translation bureau specifically.
First of all, I want to thank Mr. Simard for bringing these forward. As a chair myself, I think it's incredibly important that we hold ourselves to an incredibly high standard when it comes to documents and motions being able to be understood in both official languages. I think it's a very important part of this process, and we need to make sure that if there are ways to improve it we make those changes.
That being said, I do have a question that maybe the clerk and the analysts can weigh in on in terms of whether this is being done right now. I know that many offices, not just those of members of Parliament but also the analysts and the clerk, have the ability to translate documents themselves. I'm wondering if this motion would stop that from happening or, in other words, create a really big logjam at the translation bureau. We've all had to send documents over to be translated, and there are delays in that.
A lot of MPs and the folks who help us, whether it's the clerk or the analysts, do a lot of their own translation. The way the motion is written right now would suggest to me that this can't happen anymore, and I would argue that it would be an unintended consequence of this motion. I'm wondering if Mr. Simard could maybe comment on that, and maybe the analysts or the clerk could comment on it as well.
My next concern with this has actually just been demonstrated. We just had a substantive amendment. It was friendly and it was agreed upon. Again, the way I'm reading this—maybe Mr. Simard can correct me if this isn't the intention—that would no longer be possible and we would have to stop. Mr. Lloyd would have to submit his motion. Somehow it would be translated quickly. Normally, we are able to do that through the translation that is provided on these calls.
I just want to be very clear that, again, we're not seeing an unintended consequence here and all of a sudden the committee's grinding to a halt every time we have a motion. Motions, of course, are part of our privilege as members. I'm just concerned that if there's a motion, a substantive motion, based on something that is being discussed in that particular meeting, we as members have the right to move that motion in real time. There is no 48-hour rule in that regard. I'm a little concerned that this would butt up against the rules of the House, which of course we follow here in committee.
If I'm misinterpreting this, please forgive me. When I read this, that jumped out at me as a concern. I don't know how we could word it to allow for motions coming from the floor and their being interpreted through the translation services that we have on these calls, which has been the practice up until now.
Yes, I trumped myself a bit there in terms of this one. Again, I think I have to reiterate that it's a priority for all of us—I hope it's a priority for all of us—to ensure that we can all be understood. We want to strengthen our ability to be understood at all times. Where I run into an issue with this particular motion is, again, that the nature of committees is often on the fly. There are amendments to substantive motions that happen during these conversations and these debates.
I can only imagine what it would be like to follow this while doing a report where there are amendments upon amendments and where, based on how certain things are amended, there could be additional amendments.
I'd just be very concerned that if this were adopted as is we'd really be grinding to a halt and also, potentially, breaching privilege. I'm open to a discussion on this one, if it can be amended in some way or clarified. Maybe Mr. Simard could speak to maybe my misinterpretation of what is being said.
I agree with MP Lloyd, but just to clarify, you don't need to give 48 hours' notice, as per the rules of the House, as long as the motion is germane to the topic you're discussing. Again, this would be a breach of privilege. You would be taking away a member's privilege to move a motion based on the debate that we're seeing in front of us, and I think that is a dangerous precedent.
I don't think that's what's intended. I really don't. I think the intent of this motion is to ensure that we are understood and that we respect the bilingual nature of this country, but in doing so, we wouldn't be able to hear something in a committee, for example, and be able to move a motion based on that, which, of course, is a privilege we have right now.
I won't be voting in favour of this on those grounds unless it's amended because the actual motion, from what I understand, doesn't say just substantive motions. It says the text of any substantive motion or any motion in amendment of that substantive motion. You would have to know, even before we debate these issues, what your amendment would be or what your thought process would be, which I think really disregards the process of the debate in and of itself.