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Doug Ford pledges to turn Ontario into 'auto manufacturing powerhouse' driven by minerals from Ring of Fire

Workers assemble the powertrain with an electric motor and battery of a VW in Zwickau, Germany. Premier Doug Ford says companies that wish to build EV batteries with minerals from Ontario will need to manufacture the batteries in the province. (Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

Companies that want to extract Ontario's critical minerals to make EV batteries will also need to open factories in the province, Premier Doug Ford said Monday.

Speaking at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association's (ROMA) annual general meeting, Ford said northern Ontario boasts deposits of 34 of the "most critical minerals the whole world wants."

"Everyone's here wanting to get the minerals," Ford said. "I have one condition.

I'm sure each and every one of you agree we should never ever ship our critical minerals, no matter if it's a lithium or cobalt or graphite or nickel, over to other countries so they can produce batteries in their country, and ship [batteries] over to Ontario. It doesn't work that way."

Rather, Ford said, under the provincial critical mineral strategy, companies would be required to also manufacture the batteries in Ontario.

"You can have our lithium, as long as you're manufacturing the batteries here," he said. "We're going to build the cars of the future right here in Ontario."

Though Monday's speech didn't signal any major policy changes, Ford did hint at another EV manfuacturing announcement coming soon. 

Ontario is home to a major mineral deposit, known as the Ring of Fire and found about 500 km north of Thunder Bay, in the James Bay lowlands. It includes chromite, cobalt, nickel, copper, and platinum, which are used in the development of electric vehicles.

Last year, Ford unveiled the province's critical minerals strategy, which he described Monday as a "five-year roadmap to better connect the industries, resources and workers in our province's north to our manufacturers in the south."

Ford has pledged a $1-billion access road to the Ring of Fire area, and Stellantis and LG have announced plans to build a $5-billion electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed the province's critical minerals strategy during a speech at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference on Monday. (CBC)

Honda, too, has announced plans to convert its Alliston, Ont., plant to produce hybrid vehicles. The work is expected to take six years, and cost about $1.4 billion; the provincial and federal governments are each kicking in about $131 million.

However, concerns have been raised about the province's consultation process with Indigenous communities in the Ring of Fire area, with some communities expressing worries about the environmental impact of development.

Community leaders in Neskantaga First Nation, about 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, have been among some of the most vocal critics of plans to build a proposed road that would connect the Ring of Fire mineral deposit to the highway networks and manufacturing might of Ontario's south

Ford on Monday said his government's efforts are aimed at making "Ontario an auto manufacturing powerhouse once again" and said the proposed roads in the Ring of Fire would also serve First Nations in the region. 

This year's ROMA conference runs until Tuesday in Toronto.

Jan 24, 2023 10:51PM
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