Shippers who ply the St. Lawrence Seaway view critical minerals for electric vehicle batteries as key to their future — but it could be a while before the floodgates open on Canada’s largely untapped reserves.
Until then, grain and iron ore remain the staples, comprising nearly half of the 36.3 million tonnes of cargo that passed through the seaway last year.
Terence Bowles, who heads the seaway’s management authority, says he expects a million more tonnes of Canadian grain will float down the St. Lawrence River from Thunder Bay and other Ontario ports in 2023.
Chamber of Marine Commerce CEO Bruce Burrows says the war in Ukraine will likely extend the spike in demand for that crop as well as potash, while iron ore traffic will pick up as car makers “get back on their feet.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the seaway’s navigation year Wednesday, Bowles said Canada remains “in the early throes” of cobalt and lithium development for electric car batteries — minerals he sees playing a crucial role in establishing the seaway as a “green corridor.”
Less than a week before the federal government unveils its latest budget and on the eve of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Canada, the Chamber of Marine Commerce is calling on Ottawa to follow America’s lead on major funding for transport infrastructure.