The United States and other Western nations announced an alliance on Monday to produce and purchase critical minerals from nations with higher labour and environmental standards, a move that could decrease trade with market leader China.
Announced at the COP15 talks on biodiversity in Montreal, the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance would support these standards for elements like lithium, cobalt and nickel, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said.
“Unless China and Russia are willing to put in place … measures required to be able to legitimately say that they are supporting these kinds of standards then it would essentially mean … we will be buying alternatives as we can,” Wilkinson said in an interview.
“China is actually free to up its game with respect to environmental standards and with respect to labor standards and eventually join the alliance,” he added. “But it would have to make those kinds of changes.”
Wilkinson acknowledged that the voluntary alliance of the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom would not shun China which dominates the market for the minerals used in EV batteries.
“Obviously right now there are some critical minerals that are processed in large measure in China so this will be something that will need to happen over time,” he said.
Western countries have been trying to wean themselves from a dependence on authoritarian regimes for strategically important materials.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena