Worldwide demand for metals and critical minerals is increasing rapidly in response to growing populations, technological advancement and the global shift towards a lower carbon economy.

Alberta, as a leader in responsible development, has the opportunity to be at the forefront of global mineral exploration and development. Renewing Alberta’s Mineral Future is a strategy and action plan for Alberta to capitalize on our potential to become a preferred producer and supplier of metallic and industrial minerals and mineral products. It outlines a path to unlock Alberta’s untapped mineral resource potential, helping to meet increasing demand while creating jobs and attracting investment. 

Renewing Alberta’s mineral future

There are 6 key areas to support and achieve Alberta’s vision:

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    Increase public geoscience

    Alberta must enhance its public geological knowledge base to equip our governments, the public, industry, land owners as well as Indigenous Peoples with better understanding of our resource potential.

  • Actions we’re taking

    The Alberta Geological Survey, Alberta Energy Regulator, and the Government of Alberta released one of the largest mineral data collections in Alberta’s history.

    The government will invest over $30 million by 2025 to enable the Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta Geological Survey  to deliver more minerals-focused public geoscience information and build an inventory of minerals and their concentrations across the province.

    This project obtained regional geoscience data across Alberta to:

    • Improve our collective understanding of Alberta’s geology and its minerals’ potential. 
    • Close knowledge gaps between stakeholders
    • Identify new mineral occurrences
    • Provide base-level geoscience information to inform and spur exploration and development opportunities.

    Enhancing publicly accessible geoscience information attracts more investment, reduces exploration risk, and contributes to well-informed resource development and land use decisions.

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    Enhance the fiscal and regulatory environment

    A clear, predictable and robust regulatory regime is key to boosting investor confidence, attracting investment and ensuring responsible resource development. The Government of Alberta is proposing updates to streamline Alberta’s legislation and regulations that oversee the life cycle of metallic and industrial mineral development.

  • Actions we’re taking

    Alberta Energy Regulator as the life cycle regulator for minerals

    The Mineral Resource Development Act came into effect for brine-hosted mineral development on March 1, 2023. Previously, regulatory oversight for minerals was split among multiple entities in the province and there were no specific resource conservation statutes for metallic and industrial minerals, unlike for other natural resources in the province. 

    Combined with the Responsible Energy Development Act, the Mineral Resource Development Act provides legislative authority to the AER to regulate mineral resources and ensure their safe, efficient, orderly and responsible development.

    The government is taking a staged approach to implementing the regulatory framework for the Mineral Resource Development Act, starting with minerals extracted from underground formations, known in the industry as brine-hosted minerals.

    This first phase of implementation has been completed. Additional information on mineral regulation can be found at the Alberta Energy Regulator’s mineral resource development page.

    The next step of implementation will be on rock-hosted mineral development. The regulatory regime for rock-hosted minerals is currently under development and expected to come into force in early 2024, with the full proclamation of the Mineral Resource Development Act.

    Collaborating with the federal government and other jurisdictions

    Alberta’s strategy supports work with federal, provincial and territorial governments and partners – such as the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, the Canada-U.S. joint action plan on critical minerals and our collaboration with the Northwest Territories on critical minerals development.

    The federal government is pursuing the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration and leading the development of a Canada’s approach targeting all segments of the critical minerals and battery value chains. Alberta has potential to supply many of the minerals and metals needed to build advanced battery technologies such as lithium, cobalt, helium, and vanadium, as well as its mineral processing and manufacturing capacity to fuel the domestic value chains.

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    Promote responsible development

    Alberta is modernizing its approach to mineral development, which aims to provide industry with more flexibility for acquiring rights and making new investments, while we continue to uphold our province’s stringent environmental and health and safety standards.

  • Actions we’re taking

    Mineral Resource Development Act

    • The Mineral Resource Development Act that came into effect on March 1, 2023, was the first step in implementing Alberta’s minerals strategy and action plan. 
      • The Act ensures the responsible management and development of the province’s mineral resources.
      • This is a necessary step because, unlike for other natural resources in the province, there have been no specific resource conservation statutes to help guide the responsible development of metallic and industrial minerals.
      • Provisions in the Mineral Resource Development Act include obligations on licensees and approval holders related to liability management, remedial action, and compliance, oversight and enforcement. 

    Modernizing tenure for metallic and industrial minerals

    New tenure for brine-hosted minerals and update tenure requirements for rock-hosted minerals have been established to help encourage timely exploration and production.

    As of January 1, 2023, the Metallic and Industrial Minerals Tenure Regulation (MIMTR) was modernized and sets out the requirements for obtaining and maintaining tenure agreements (permits, licences, leases) for metallic and industrial minerals. The new MIMTR also provides specific tenure requirements for the two types of metallic and industrial minerals - rock-hosted and brine-hosted.

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    Advance opportunities for Indigenous Peoples

    Enhancing the involvement of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses in mineral exploration and development – as well as along the mineral supply and value chains – allows for a better understanding of the opportunities, interests and potential concerns identified by Indigenous Peoples.

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    Develop public awareness and a skilled workforce

    Increased public awareness of the opportunities in the minerals sector will ultimately support the development of a skilled and educated labour force.

  • Supporting initiatives

    Employment and training programs

    The Government of Alberta provides a range of employment and training programs that are available to increase opportunities for employment in the minerals sector. These include:

    • The Integrated Training Program offers eligible Albertans competency-based training for skills needed in real-work situations by offering occupation-related skills, work experience, and essential skills.
    • The Immigrant Bridging Program offers eligible immigrants with competency-based/occupation-related skills training, work experience, and essential skills to help them obtain employment related to their prior skills, education or experience. 
    • The Self-employment Program offers to eligible Albertans who are looking to develop and start a new business formal training, business plan development, one-to-one business counselling, coaching and guidance.
    • Transition to Employment Services offers eligible Albertans with individualized services such as employment placement and supports, job matching, work experience and short courses to gain and maintain employment.
    • Workplace Training Program offers eligible Albertans work-site training and paid work experience through employer-delivered training. Participating employers agree to provide on-the-job training and/or provide work experience, with the expectation that participants maintain employment after completing the program.
    • Jobs, Economy, and Trade (JET) Training and Employment Services branch maintains a Training and Employment Services Directory that lists its programs and services available in 37 municipalities and surrounding communities.
    • The Northern Alberta Development Council (NADC) provides a bursary to students training for jobs that are in high demand in northern Alberta, including work in the engineering and technical fields. The NADC Bursary program provides up to $14,000 over two years and is non-repayable for those who agree to live and work in the north.

    Supports for employers

    Funding, supports, workforce contacts and resources for Alberta employers, industry associations, community and Indigenous organizations.

    • The Canada-Alberta Job Grant is a training program where an employer applies on behalf of their present or future employees for eligible training costs. Employers decide who gets training and what type of training may be needed for their employees. 
    • Workforce Partnership grants provide funding to organizations such as employers, industry and sector associations, regional organizations, and Indigenous organizations to support labour market adjustment strategies and workforce development, including initiatives to attract and retain workers through partnerships.
    • Indigenous Employment Training Partnerships provides grant funding to Indigenous communities and organizations to deliver group-training projects designed in partnership with employers and other partners.
    • Workforce contacts and employer resources provides Information to help employers recruit, retain and strengthen their workforce. 
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    Promote innovation and industrial development

    Alberta must encourage innovation, as well as advance the development and adoption of emerging technologies to help expand the scientific and industrial capacity for mineral production and manufacturing. This helps the province capitalize on opportunities along the full mineral supply and value chains.

  • Supporting initiatives

    General incentives available for mineral proponents:

    • The Research Commercialization Working Group was established in August 2021 to implement goal 3 of the Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs strategy – support innovation and commercialization. The working group submitted its final report to government Advancing Commercialization and Talent (in research) the report of the Research Working Group in April 2023.
    • The Innovation Employment Grant encourages economic growth by supporting small and medium-sized businesses that invest in research and development (R&D) with a grant worth up to 20% of qualifying expenditures.
    • As Alberta’s innovation engine, Alberta Innovates invests in solutions supporting the development, deployment and end of use processes for next-generation materials, critical minerals, and batteries.  These investments foster a more competitive and sustainable minerals and materials industry. Funding is available through the Energy Storage and Minerals program which supports a low-carbon economy with a focus on rare earth elements and critical minerals such as nickel, vanadium, and lithium for applications in electronics, e-mobility, and energy storage.
    • Regional Economic Development Resources are available for Alberta communities and regions to support local efforts to diversify and grow their economies, attract investment, and maintain a positive and competitive business environment. 

Mineral resources in Alberta

Alberta has geological potential across the province for non-energy minerals, many of which have been identified as critical and strategic minerals – such as lithium in formation waters in west-central Alberta; vanadium, rare earth elements and titanium in oil sands waste streams; potash in eastern Alberta; uranium in southern and northeastern Alberta; and helium in southeastern Alberta. 

Alberta’s current non-energy mineral production comes primarily from 23 active quarries producing salt, silica sand, limestone and other industrial minerals. There is a small amount of gold production reported as a by-product of sand and gravel operations. 

In 2022, Alberta’s total helium production was 2.1 thousand cubic metres per day from 2 wells. In addition to projects currently under construction, several new projects have been announced, with testing underway to determine helium concentrations. These projects are expected to move forward later this decade.

Table 1: Common uses for minerals found in Alberta.

MineralCommon uses
CobaltUsed in rechargeable batteries and superalloys
DiamondsUsed in manufacturing and jewelry
IronUsed in manufactured steel, food storage cans, automobiles and heavy machinery
LithiumUsed primarily for lithium-ion batteries, greases and pharmaceuticals
MagnesiumUsed in furnace linings for manufacturing steel and ceramics
NickelUsed in magnets, rechargeable batteries, steel and superalloys
PotashPrimarily used in fertilizer
Rare earth elements (REE)Primarily used in wind turbines, clean technologies, batteries and electronics
TitaniumUsed in metal alloys and pigments
UraniumPrimarily used for nuclear fuel
VanadiumPrimarily used for catalysts, alloys and for energy storage
ZirconiumUsed in high-temperature ceramics
ZincUsed in steel plating, alloys, paints, rubber, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals

Processing capacity

Alberta is home to leading refineries for critical minerals, including nickel, cobalt, and magnesium. Alberta as a gateway to the North provides opportunities for refining and mining services to mining operations in Northern Canada.

Legislation changes

The Mineral Resource Development Act, came into effect for brine-hosted mineral development on March 1, 2023 and for rock-hosted minerals on February 28, 2024, with the full proclamation of the act. The act aligns the Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER) authority over minerals with its authority over other energy resources and helps enhance the fiscal and regulatory environment for metallic and industrial mineral development, supporting the second key area in Renewing Alberta's Mineral Strategy.

By creating a one-window approach, the legislation provides clarity and certainty for industry and investors, while protecting the best interests of Albertans by ensuring the safe, orderly and responsible development of the province’s mineral resources.

Previously, regulatory oversight for minerals was split among multiple entities in the province and there were no specific resource conservation statutes for metallic and industrial minerals, unlike for other natural resources in the province.

Combined with the Responsible Energy Development Act, the Mineral Resource Development Act provides legislative authority to the AER to regulate mineral resources and ensure their safe, efficient, orderly and responsible development.

The regulation to modernize Alberta’s approach to tenure for metallic and industrial minerals took effect on January 1, 2023.