Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on International Trade for undertaking a study on Canada's exports of environmental and clean technology goods and services.
Our presentation will focus on the export of batteries, specifically batteries for electric vehicles, and Canada's unique position to play a dominant role in the sector.
As a proud Canadian and the CEO of a publicly traded company in the clean technology space, I'm excited by the opportunity for the next generation of Canada's industrial footprint. After talking about our company First Cobalt, I'll then focus on opportunities for Canada in the context of what I think is happening in the U.S. under the new Biden administration with respect to electric vehicles and specifically the battery market.
Against the backdrop of the EV revolution, the Biden presidency, I believe, represents a generational opportunity for this country, and specifically for our automotive sector, our mining industry and the chemical industry. There's a window of opportunity that could generate literally billions of dollars of economic activity, from which Canadians would benefit for generations through a reinvention of our export-focused auto supply chain.
Clean tech has come of age, and policy-makers in this country have an opportunity to seize the moment, as Canada is uniquely positioned to play a leading role not just vis-à-vis the U.S., but in the world. However, an important caveat that I want to underline in this statement is that massive investments are already being made around the world today. I already see a gradual erosion of the competitive advantage that we have before us, and I think it's important that we look to making some bold decisions right now.
I'd like to talk a bit about First Cobalt. We're a Canadian-headquartered, Canadian-led cobalt company. We own the only permitted primary cobalt refinery on the continent, and we're currently in the process of recommissioning and expanding a refinery in northern Ontario. Initially we're going to produce 25,000 tonnes of cobalt sulfate per year—that's a product that goes into electric vehicle batteries—and thereafter we're looking to expand even further to process material from the growing battery recycling market. Our initial production equates to about 5% of the global market for cobalt and 100% of production on the continent. By contrast, 80% of supply today is coming from China, with about 14% out of Europe. There's no production in the U.S. We also have an exploration project in Idaho and have exploration land in northern Ontario, with 50 past producing mines, in what's called the “cobalt camp”.
Our team is led by Canadians. We have more than 250 years of combined expertise in our start-up, both in mining and in the refining industry.
In December of last year we were the grateful recipients of $10 million in public funding to support what is an $80-million investment to restart our refinery: $5 million was from the Government of Canada in the form of a loan, and $5 million was provided by the Government of Ontario in the form of a grant. This funding is a small part of the $80 million, but it was an important catalyst. It enabled us to raise additional capital and accelerate our strategic plans to play a role in the transformation of our supply chain.
Cobalt, notably, is one of 35 elements identified by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a critical mineral. Critical minerals are those that are deemed essential to the economic and national security of the U.S., the supply chains of which are vulnerable to disruption.
Upon his election, President Biden announced a 100-day review of the critical mineral supply chain to determine how the U.S. government could reduce its vulnerability to these disruptions. All of the cobalt in American electric vehicles today is imported, so First Cobalt is an important part of that solution, starting as early as next year.
Canadian government support for a transformation of our auto supply chain more generally is going to give our industry an edge, broadly defined, not only among electric vehicle automotive companies, but in the chemical sector and the mining sector. It will also give us an edge in the rapidly growing interconnected market. Countries around the world are competing today for about 300 billion U.S. dollars' worth of investments in the EV supply chain. I want to underline that the most expensive piece of an electric vehicle is the battery and that it's made up of raw materials, almost all of which we have right here in Canada.
I want to turn to the Biden presidency, if I may, and what I see as a golden opportunity for us and our own EV ambitions.
Against the backdrop of growing EV adoption rates around the world, the Biden presidency presents an opportunity for the private sector, not just in the U.S. but also here, to work with governments. The most significant initiatives over the next four years of this administration may well be policies addressing climate change. For the U.S. to meet its Paris ambitions, aggressive actions will be required to influence industrial and consumer behaviours in the way we live our lives.
We believe the President's commitment to install up to half a million charging stations is sending a very clear message that the administration is going to support the transition to EVs. They also plan to increase incentives and tax breaks for EV purchases. Shortly after inauguration, President Biden reiterated a campaign commitment that they're going to transition their government fleet to zero-emission vehicles.
All of these developments in Washington present a really interesting opportunity for Canada, as the neighbour to the north. We have the industrial footprint, raw materials and engineering talent. We can play an important role and be a major player in the global EV supply battery chain, particularly in the largest consumer market in the world just south of our border.
President Biden's $2-trillion clean energy plan includes sweeping proposals designed to create economic opportunities while also tackling climate change, notably addressing the biggest, or one of the biggest, source of emissions— internal combustion engines.
EVs represent a megatrend. I don't want to use a buzzword, but it's an important one for our industry. It's a megatrend that's going to forever change the way we get around. The electric vehicle revolution has been described as an arms race. I think it's well known that North Americans are lagging behind. We lag behind Asia, and now we lag behind Europe. Make no mistake, change is coming here as well, and the change is coming pretty quickly. President Biden's focus on climate change and the flurry of EV-related investment announcements is like pouring rocket fuel on a market that's already one of the most consequential trends that we're faced with today.
The number of EV models available on the U.S. market last year was only 16. This year it's going to be more than double to at 39. By 2025 there are going to be 120 different models available. That's the sign that change is coming. As battery technology has evolved, it's going to include pickups, SUVs and crossovers, that is, the bigger vehicles that North Americans and Canadians like and want to drive. As consumer demand shifts to EV, so too must our industrial investments.
Back to Canada, I think the transformation of our auto supply chain is going to give Canada an edge when it comes to competing for the billions of dollars of capital investments being made around the world, not just in EV plants, but also in the batteries that power them. That's where I think our focus needs to lie.
Federal and provincial governments are already investing $500 million in Ford's Oakville EV and battery assembly plant. GM meanwhile is putting $1 billion into their CAMI plant in Ingersoll to produce commercial EVs. These types of investments create enormous opportunities. It's up to us now to work our way up the supply chain and try to connect some of the gaps that are emerging in our supply chain, or the new opportunities, as I like to see them.
I think there's more that Canada can do to transform the auto sector. Battery production has to be at the heart of the next steps the government takes in this area. This is where the future jobs are going to be, and where the investments will be and currently are today.
Policy-makers in Canada, if I may say, must continue picking winners as we go forward and supporting them with financial and regulatory measures. They have to foster those investments to bring the capital to our country.
By way of illustration, the EU in December 2019 approved $3.2 billion in subsidies to help boost their lag in competitiveness vis-à-vis Asia in the battery sector. That payoff was almost immediate. Despite COVID and the drop of passenger sales generally, EV sales were up 137% last year over 2020. They're now a bigger market than China.
They started 2021 with a bang as well and announced another €2.9 billion in support for yet more battery sector investments in R and D, production and installations. That unlocked, in turn, about $12 billion of private sector investment. I guess the policy gamble paid off in Europe. We're seeing it with advanced materials, cells and modules, battery systems and recycling, all now rolling out across Europe. Europe's stated goal was to produce its own battery cells by mid-decade. It's an ambitious statement in a sector that's dominated by Asia, but it looks like they're going to get there.
Canada has something Europeans don't have. We have vast mineral deposits. That's where it all starts. With these deposits, our governments should be focused on connecting the value chain from our mines through to the assembly plants, with a keen focus on battery production here in Canada. This involves not just mining the materials, but also the chemical processing, battery cell manufacturing, battery pack assembly and, of course, at the end of the life cycle, recycling the batteries themselves.
As a nation, Canada and Canadians must embrace mining. It is the solution to global warming. Without minerals, there's no clean energy future. As a next step, we need an industrial policy that's going to be centred around benefiting Canadian resources at home rather than shipping them abroad, as we too often do.
This means turning Canada into what I think could be a global battery powerhouse. Industry can't do this alone. Like Europe, I think it's going to take co-operation between the public and private sectors in the form of both policy and financial incentives.
I want to conclude by offering this perspective. There's no reason, in my opinion, why LG Chem, SK Innovation, Panasonic and all of the battery makers around the world shouldn't be looking to Canada for their next battery manufacturing investments. We've seen billions of dollars of investments going towards the U.S., and I think it's our turn.
To get there, we need a team Canada approach to attract this investment in the same way the federal and provincial governments court automotive investments. Government funding programs have to match the private sector, not necessarily dollar for dollar, but we have to be at the table together. I think Canada can win the battle to create a North American battery supply chain, given our abundant natural resources, not to mention our proximity to a clean source of power. Hydroelectric power and nuclear have a huge competitive advantage in an ESG world.
We have the markets, the proximity to the markets, and we have a deep pool of engineering talent. I think we have all the ingredients.
Before I conclude I want to leave you, if I may, with three ideas. First, all levels of government have to partner with industry, and we have to seize this window of opportunity now. Time is ticking. I think next year is going to be too late.
Second, the best way for us to partner is to do as the Americans and the Europeans are doing, and that is to pick the winners and provide some broad, imaginative opportunities for cash-based incentives and subsidies to the industry.
Third, and I've said this already, really the time to act is now. Many western countries are ahead of us, notably Europe and the U.S., as I've mentioned, not to mention China, Japan and Korea that were already ahead of Canada.
The green revolution really is here to stay. There's no going back. It's up to all of us to work together to ensure Canada is a leader in this new world.
I want to thank you for your time and, again, I'm happy to answer any questions.