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Nunavut’s high-purity iron gains critical status, boosting prospects for green steel and economic growth

Advocates for Nunavut’s mining industry, including Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., have welcomed Canada’s decision to include high-purity iron on its list of critical minerals. This move is expected to attract additional investments, both public and private, into projects like Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine on Baffin Island.

Peter Akman, spokesperson for Baffinland, emphasized that the addition of high-purity iron ore to the critical minerals list will facilitate investment opportunities. Mining currently contributes significantly to Nunavut’s economy, accounting for about a quarter of its economic activity.

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Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced the inclusion of high-purity iron, along with phosphorus and silicon metal, in Canada’s list of 34 critical minerals on June 10. Traditionally, critical minerals have focused on metals like lithium, copper, and zinc, essential for electric batteries, wind turbines, and other green energy applications crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

High-purity iron was added to the list due to its potential in producing steel with lower environmental impact, requiring less coal in the steelmaking process compared to traditional methods. Akman noted that Baffinland’s high-purity iron is approximately 67% pure, positioning it favorably in the production of low-carbon green steel.

Dennis Patterson, a retired senator representing Nunavut, highlighted the benefits of this designation for Inuit-owned resources and the territory as a whole. He emphasized the growing demand for green steel in Europe, where Baffinland has secured agreements with steel manufacturers.

Canada’s critical minerals strategy, initiated in 2021, periodically reviews the list every three years to update it based on evolving economic and environmental considerations. The designation of critical minerals is also significant geopolitically, as countries like Canada and the U.S. seek to reduce dependence on critical minerals sourced from geopolitical rivals like China and Russia.

Karen Costello, Executive Director of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, expressed satisfaction that the government incorporated input from various stakeholders during the recent review. She highlighted the strategic importance of critical minerals in global trade and security contexts, underscoring Canada’s position in the critical minerals market.

In conclusion, Canada’s decision to classify high-purity iron as a critical mineral is expected to bolster Nunavut’s mining sector, contribute to the global shift towards sustainable steel production, and enhance economic opportunities in the region.

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