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U.S. lawmakers blast Canada over sale of lithium mining company to Chinese firm

By Richard Madan

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    Washington, D.C. (CTV Network) — A trio of U.S. lawmakers are blasting Canada’s “complicit approval” that allowed the sale of a Toronto-listed lithium mining company to a Chinese state-owned firm, and are urging Biden administration officials to investigate the acquisition.

In a letter to several U.S. Cabinet secretaries obtained by CTV News, Rep. Michael Walz (R-Florida), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Lance Gooden (R-TX) describe the takeover of Neo Lithium Corp by China’s Zijin Mining Group Ltd. as “highly concerning,” and accuse the Canadian government of underestimating “the threat imposed by the Chinese Communist Party.” The lawmakers question if U.S. government officials were aware or notified of the transaction.

“I was astonished that this was approved without much scrutiny from Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau’s government,” Rep. Walz said to CTV News. “China’s increased economic influence over companies in both the U.S. and Canada is a grave national security threat, especially as it pertains to critical minerals that are essential to the future of U.S. energy independence.”

Their letter was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Neo Lithium is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but its mining site and employees are based in Argentina. The company says the proposed mine would extract lithium carbonate to be used in zero-emission vehicles.

Last month, Canada approved its sale to China’s Zijin Mining Group for $918.7 million. Canadian Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told a Parliamentary committee the acquisition posed no national security risk.

American lawmakers questioned why Ottawa approved the sale since Canada and the U.S. recently created a Joint Action Plan to strengthen critical mineral supply chains amid fierce competition from China.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne “isn’t understanding of the threat,” Rep. Walz said. “We cannot become dependent on China for critical minerals and are seeing the consequences of energy reliance on authoritarian regimes play out in real time in a Europe.”

The U.S. lawmakers are demanding clarity on the process to approve Chinese purchases of U.S. and Canadian companies, and the degree of scrutiny being carried out.

The timing of the letter comes as the White House and Prime Minister’s Office issued joint statements praising the first anniversary of a “Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership,” which includes “work to strengthen bilateral supply chains and co-operation on criminal minerals.”

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