Will the wildfires in Saskatchewan permanently change the mining industry?
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Originally reported by our sister brand Business Review Canada and Canada’s Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, hundreds of wildfires have recently erupted in Saskatchewan; the fires have caused the Seabee gold mine to suspend various operations. Claude Resources, the company behind the operation, has noted that one of the more than 100 fires actually came within eight kilometres of its site, meaning some 355 employees had to evacuate.
Furthermore, Cameco and Areva have had to stop shipping uranium from northern operations because various highways and airstrips have been closed from time to time due to all of the smoke and flames.
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Regarding the issue, Cameco spokesman Gord Struthers has said, “It’s a bit of a juggling act, but we’re managing to get through it.”
Interestingly enough, the fires haven’t affected the mines as much as they’ve hindered the workers. Northern residents make up almost half of the company’s employees.
“It’s a major ordeal for many of the people who work for us,” Struthers continued. “You know, they have family members evacuated, and they may have fires threatening their communities or property.”
Cameco and Areva are hopeful and believe that the fires will not cause uranium delivers to suffer, in large part because of the inventories, as well as the ability to manage and maintain the inflow of essential supplies.
While wildfires aren’t anything out of the norm for the north, they can still be quite dangerous and create numerous hazards and consequences—for the mining industry and those involved in it.
One thing to remember is the change in climate patterns and how this can cause fires to sporadically erupt.
The fires have affected the mining industry in the north somewhat, but not enough to completely shut it down. It seems that the workers who live in the surrounding areas are the ones facing the stronger blow of the fires—but, thankfully, nothing too life threatening has taken place.
However, it goes without saying, if the fires do happen to continue or even get worse, all parties involved in the industry could face a variety of challenges.
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.