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Chinese takeover of lithium company raises no concerns: Liberals

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Chinese takeover of lithium company raises no concerns: Liberals

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OTTAWA — The impending takeover of a Canadian lithium mining company by a Chinese state-owned company raises no national security concerns, the federal Liberals argued Thursday.

Liberal MP Andy Fillmore, parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, told a House of Commons committee that the Department of Industry last fall looked into the proposed takeover of Neo Lithium Corp. . by the Chinese group Zijin Mining Group Ltd.

This review concluded that Neo Lithium is “definitely not a Canadian company,” he told the industry committee, describing it as an Argentine company with directors in the UK and only three Canadian employees. on paper”.

He said the only reason Neo Lithium “had any Canadian presence” was to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in an effort to raise money for what Fillmore called a “looking increasingly dubious” in Argentina.

Additionally, he said the project is for lithium carbonate, not the lithium hydroxide used to make essential batteries for electric vehicles.

For those reasons, Fillmore said a formal national security review of the takeover was deemed unnecessary.

“Those are the things they found, are they? In fact, it’s not lithium relevant to Canada’s national security interests and it’s not really a Canadian company.”

However, Tory MP Ed Fast, who had called the emergency committee meeting to find out why no formal safety review had been carried out, said it was “just wrong” to say that Neo Lithium is not not a Canadian company.

And he noted that the company’s own website touts the mine as “the world’s preeminent lithium brine asset” to meet growing global demand for electric vehicle batteries.

“It goes without saying, but it’s worth remembering that critical minerals like lithium are a strategic asset, not just for Canada but for the world, and will play a critical role in driving our future prosperity and achieving of our environmental goals,” said Fast.

Although the mine in question is in Argentina, Fast argued that it is incumbent on Canada and other “free-trade and rule-abiding allies” to ensure that the global critical minerals industry does not is not monopolized by a country, especially a country whose interests “are sometimes hostile to ours.”

China currently dominates the world’s supply of lithium and batteries.

Conservative MP Tracy Gray further argued that lithium carbonate can be converted into lithium hydroxide for use in batteries.

But Fillmore countered that the conversion process involves additional costs and “significant environmental implications”, which is why lithium hydroxide is preferred.

“I could probably make a passable hat out of my socks, but I much prefer wearing a hat,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting was called to consider a motion by Fast, calling on the committee to hold six meetings to explore the Neo Lithium takeover and determine whether a formal national security review should have been conducted.

Finally, the members of the committee unanimously accepted a compromise from the Bloc Québécois to hold two meetings on the subject next week. The steering subcommittee, which is also due to meet next week to set the committee’s agenda for the coming months, may decide to schedule more meetings on Neo Lithium.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 20, 2022.

Chinese takeover of lithium company raises no concerns: Liberals

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