As capitalists around the world embark on a mass propaganda campaign to convince people that electrified vehicles represent our only way out of the climate crisis, they are in fact manufacturing consent for further mining and environmental devastation on Indigenous land, both at home and abroad. It is in large part from the expropriation and theft of these so-called "critical" minerals from Indigenous land that capitalist profits flow all the way up the supply chain, leaving nothing but pollution, poisoning, and human suffering in their wake.

As of January 2024, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is seeking an order from the Quebec Superior Court for the provincial and federal governments to consult their government about the building of the Northvolt megafactory1. The community has yet to be consulted on the decision to fund the project nor on the destruction of the wetlands.

But this megafactory is just one manifestation of the expansion of so-called "critical" mineral mining at both the local and global scale. In our current economic system, capitalists require ever-expanding sources of profit to forestall economic crises. In this case, the encroachment of mining projects onto new tracts of Indigenous land - in addition to the exploitation of new sources of "informal" child labour abroad - provide the fresh inputs required to keep our economic system running "smoothly," and to delay the inevitable periodic crises brought about by capitalist expansion and contraction.

This is precisely why both federal and provincial governments are ramping up public investment in mineral extraction. Ontario's 2023 Building More Mines Act2 is explicitly designed to strengthen "the province's critical minerals supply chains for batteries and electric vehicles" 3. Ontario has also set forth a so-called "Critical Minerals Strategy" that makes it easier for companies to bypass regulation to "get mines built more efficiently" providing a greenwashed policy justification for the further expropriation of stolen land in so-called Canada.

In order to compete with Chinese capitalists for dominance over the EV battery market, the dream of both European and Canadian capitalists alike is to establish an "integrated supply chain" that ensures that minerals from the Canadian north (including those from northern Ontario's Ring of Fire) flow continuously to feed factories and manufacturing in the south. Northvolt in McMasterville is just one of several European foreign direct investments in the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing sector in recent years, with new battery manufacturing facilities established in nearby Bécancour, St. Thomas, Oakville, Windsor, and Ingersoll since 20224.

The push to open the veins for mineral flow from the north to the south of Ontario and Québec is already being felt by Indigenous communities in the region. In the last year alone, the staking of mining claims has increased as much as 30%, with private companies and individuals able to simply register their stake in a piece of land through Ontario's online "Mining Land Administration System"5. Chiefs all across Ontario are pushing for a year-long pause on mining claims. They are currently being inundated by thousands of online mining claims that they cannot possibly track, let alone respond to.

The provinces have explicitly asserted their right to any minerals beneath the surface of the earth, and the right for individuals and private companies to explore for ore and mine on Indigenous land. The rights to explore for valuable minerals below ground are protected even in cases where the "surface" land is private property. Individuals staking these mining claims online are not required to consult the First Nations whose territory the claim is on, nor are they required to have even physically visited the property to which they are securing mining rights. For a small fee, prospectors can file a mining claim that gives them the legal right to clear trees off the land, drill for samples, and prospect for minerals. Projects like Northvolt are downstream of an unprecedented wave of land expropriation, mineral staking, and dispossession that has swept through Northern communities in the last few years.

Meanwhile, the Neskantaga First Nation, who live on the metal-rich Ring of Fire, has not had access to clean drinking water for over 28 years6. Community members are currently living under the longest boil watery advisory of any First Nation in recent history. Rather than upgrading basic clean drinking water infrastructure, the provincial government has pledged millions of dollars in "critical minerals" investments7 to facilitate the extraction of minerals from the north to the south by clear-cutting and paving new all-season roads and mining infrastructure that will allow the minerals to flow year-round8. The nearby community of Grassy Narrows is still dealing with the fallout of decades of mercury poisoning as a result of a paper mill that dumped thousands of tonnes of toxins in their territorial waters, which has prevented them from fishing in their own waters, decreased life expectancy in the region, and created a suicide rate three times higher than that of other First Nations communities9. These northern communities are now faced with the prospect of even more pollution due to this EV-powered wave of new mining claims10.

The global perspective on the EV battery supply chain reveals an equally bloody picture. Northvolt has openly announced a deepening of its ties to the cobalt mining trade in the Congo. Found also in the Ring of Fire, cobalt is a metal required for lithium batteries in electric vehicles, computers, and phones, as it dramatically increases battery energy storage and charging speeds11. The global demand for cobalt is expected to grow fourfold by 2030 due to the increased production of electric vehicles12. Currently, the Congo supplies 70% of the world's cobalt, much of which is mined by children in makeshift tunnels and open-pit mines that are dug out by hand13. Children and other "artisanal" miners often collect cobalt on the outskirts of official mines, bringing them to "buying houses" where middlemen trade sacs of cobalt for pennies. Despite what the "Fair Cobalt Alliance" might claim, it is generally recognized that it is impossible to separate cobalt that was unofficially mined from cobalt that resulted from "official" industrial production14. In addition to the regular occurrences of cave-ins and floods, cobalt dust is toxic, affecting everyone who works in the mines as well as all those in the surrounding community. Women who wash the raw ore after it has been extracted are exposed to radioactive cobalt that leads to stillbirths. Pregnant women living in cobalt-mining communities have record-setting levels of heavy metals in their blood15.

Northvolt's image of a "clean," "green" battery is one that deliberately masks the reality of hundreds of thousands of poisoned children, both in so-called Canada and abroad. In solidarity with the oppressed and exploited peoples of the global South, and with the Indigenous communities of northern so-called Ontario and Québec facing further dispossession and poisoning, we have every obligation to prevent the construction of new megafactories. Capitalist greenwashing has opened up the veins of mineral extraction both here and abroad, and it's up to us, in the heart of the imperial core, to stop this senseless bleeding.



  1. Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke. (2024, 23 Tsothohrhkó:wa/January). MCK files Lawsuit against Quebec and Canada for Failure to Consult regarding Northvolt Project [press release].
  2. Pirie, Hon. George. (2023). Bill 71, Building More Mines Act, 2023. Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
  3. Ontario government introduces Building More Mines Act. (2023, March 2).
  4. Northvolt chooses Canada for its first EV battery plant in North America. (2023, September 29). Invest in Canada.
  5. McIntosh, Emma. (2024, January 24). Ontario First Nations want a year-long pause on mining claims. Will the Ford government listen? The Narwhal.
  6. Stefanovich, Olivia. (2023, February 3). Ontario First Nation hires outside firm to investigate 28-year boil water advisory. CBC News.
  7. Ontario, First Nations agree on missing link road to the Ring of Fire. (2020, March 2). Northern Ontario Business.
  8. Scott, Dayna Nadine and Deborah Cowen. (2020, November 22). Mining push continues despite water crisis in Neskantaga First Nation and Ontario’s Ring of Fire. The Conversation.
  9. Hofschneider, Anita. (2023, July 27). Mercury pollution is worsening a mental health crisis in this Indigenous community. Grist.
  10. Turner, Logan. (2021, November 17). Grassy Narrows takes Ontario to court for issuing mining exploration permits. CBC News.
  11. Lithium-Cobalt Batteries: Powering the Electric Vehicle Revolution. (2021, June 15). Visual Capitalist.
  12. Norton, Kara. (2023, December 21). Cobalt powers our lives. What is it—and why is it so controversial? National Geographic.
  13. Davie, Michael. (2022, September 5). Blood cobalt. ABC News.
  14. Maconachie, Roy. (2024, January 30). ‘We miners die a lot.’ Appalling conditions and poverty wages: the lives of cobalt miners in the DRC. The Conversation.
  15. Van Brusselen, Daan et al. (2020, April). Metal mining and birth defects: a case-control study in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Lancet.