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MUNL & CNA partner on critical minerals

The College of the North Atlantic campus in Corner Brook. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ST. JOHN’S — On Monday, March 6, College of the North Atlantic (CNA) and Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador (MUNL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on a five-year agreement focusing on the development of critical minerals in the province. The plan is a result of the federal government’s announcement of Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy which aims to increase the supply of responsibly resourced critical minerals while supporting the transition domestically and globally to a digital and green economy. The strategy has a main focus of five core objectives:

  1. Support economic growth, competitiveness and job creation

  2. Promote climate action and environmental protection

  3. Advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples

  4. Foster diverse and inclusive workplaces and communities

  5. Enhance global security and partnerships with allies

In a news release by CNA, Memorial University, and the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology (IET), the academic and research activities that are planned for the duration of the five-year agreement include:

  1. a partnership that will pursue funding in support of critical minerals research and innovation;

  2. administration of funding from funding partners to support research projects;

  3. undergraduate and graduate student mobility;

  4. exchange of publications, research materials, newsletters etc.;

  5. joint projects related to research, teaching and faculty development; and,

  6. joint developments of training and academic programs in support of the critical minerals industry.

The announcement stated that the province is set to be a major contributor to help accelerate Canada’s transition into clean energy because of the critical minerals already in the province, a sentiment re-iterated by IET Minister Andrew Parsons. “My department is working collaboratively with College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University to advance opportunities related to emerging critical minerals,” said Parsons. “Newfoundland and Labrador is well-positioned with the critical minerals needed to meet global demand, and we will continue working together to ensure our province holds an important place in the global critical mineral value added supply chain.” Both educational institutions are looking forward to the opportunities this plan offers. “CNA and Memorial University are this province’s public post-secondary education providers. Any time we have an opportunity for collaboration and partnership is a great day,” said Michelle Barry, Communications Manager with CNA. “We are sincerely looking forward to working with multiple departments across the university to bring new synergies to the approach on developing a green economy in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).” “Memorial is pleased to partner with College of the North Atlantic (CNA) to explore opportunities related to critical minerals,” said Dr. Tana Allen, Acting Vice President (Research) at Memorial University. “We have a longstanding relationship with CNA and we look forward to strengthening that collaboration through this new MOU. Both agree that involvement in the critical minerals industry holds significant importance. “The successful transition to a green economy is highly dependent on a predictable supply of critical minerals. NL is positioned the be a major contributor to Canada’s clean energy transition because of the vast critical mineral wealth here,” said Barry. “CNA supports the safe and sustainable exploration and processing of these critical minerals. This co-operative agreement will help to develop the sector and effectively move toward the green economy that we all desire.” “Memorial has a range of diverse research activities related to the environment, energy and natural resources, led by talented multidisciplinary teams,” said Allen. “By partnering with College of the North Atlantic, Memorial will advance knowledge and insight related to this industry and its value to our country and beyond.” The institutions have numerous existing partnerships in other fields of study, such as innovation, entrepreneurship, fisheries, and marine training. “We see the MOU as the first step towards operationalizing new projects with the university. Memorial, for example, has a very strong Process Engineering program and this is synergistic with CNA’s program in the same field, as well with the college’s Chemical Process Engineering Technology (Co-op) program,” said Barry. “Given the processing of rare earth elements is one of the greatest challenges facing that segment of the industry, projects involving research, teaching and academic programs in this area are highly likely.” “Through this partnership, Memorial hopes to work with College of the North Atlantic on a number of initiatives such as pursuing funding opportunities supporting critical minerals research and innovation; training the next generation of students and leaders; and disseminating knowledge to enhance the quality of research related to critical minerals,” said Allen. Both institutions will enter the partnership utilizing their own significant resources. “Over the last two years, in particular, CNA has acquired nearly $4 million in specialized Hyperspectral Scanning and reality capture technologies to support digitization of mining and other industries’ assets. We will most certainly be deploying instruments like those in future projects that emerge from this MOU and other opportunities that may result from Canada’s Critical Mineral Strategy,” said Barry. “As one of Canada’s top 20 research universities, Memorial has demonstrated research strengths in a range of multidisciplinary areas, including natural resources and the environment,” said Allen. “We hope to draw on this expertise – including the world-class abilities of our faculty and researchers and their use of innovative tools and technology – to explore opportunities related to critical minerals. As Memorial continues relationship building with Indigenous communities, we will strive for respectful engagement throughout this process.”

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