Canada: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

This article was updated on the 16th October 2019.

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Canada is located in the northern part of the North American continent and is bordered on the west by the North Pacific Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. Its neighbor to the south is the United States of America. With a total area of 9,984,670 km2 and with a population of 37.06 million as of 2018, it is the second largest country in the world. The country’s climate varies from sub-arctic and arctic in its northern region to temperate in its southern portion.

Canada is a land of abundant space and is rich in natural resources, including nickel, iron ore, zinc, lead, rare earth elements, copper, gold, silver, molybdenum, potash, diamonds, coal, hydropower, petroleum, and natural gas. It is economically and technologically at par with the United States in terms of oil, gas, uranium, and electric power. Moreover, the Canadian mining industry is bustling with many mineral explorations, mine developments, and mining projects.

Canada’s market-oriented economic system resembles the US and belongs to the trillion-dollar class of the industrial society with a $1.643 trillion GDP in 2017. A stable political set-up coupled with a highly skilled workforce and vast natural resources has enabled Canada to establish strong economic growth from 1993 to 2007. The country faced its first fiscal deficit in 2009 due to the global economic crisis after 12 consecutive years of surplus.

Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island. Image Credit: CIA Factbook

Canada's Resources

Canada is rich in mineral resources. In fact, the Canadian mineral industry attracts around $20 billion in capital investment annually. Since 2010, natural gas and oil production, coal, and refined petroleum products have been increasing in value, beginning with an estimated $41.5 billion and reaching $43.9 billion in 2017. Gold was the top mineral product by value of production, achieving a total value of $8.7 billion during the same year. Nearly 21% of the total value of Canada’s goods exports comes from minerals. In the past few years, Canada has been the world’s top destination for exploration investments, gaining a large presence in countries such as the United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.

In terms of world production of resources, Canada is also the world’s leading producer of potash, the world’s second-largest producer of uranium, and the world’s third-largest producer of petroleum. The country is also known as one of the top five producers of aluminum, gem-quality diamond, nickel ore, cobalt ore, zinc, refined indium, platinum-group metals ore, and sulfur. Aside from this, Canada also exports crude petroleum, natural gas, and aluminum among other resources.

Metals

Canada’s major metal reserves are distributed all over the state, more specifically in the Rocky Mountains, the Precambrian shield, and the Coastal Ranges. The minable reserves of major metals can be found in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick. Metals such as indium, tin, antimony, nickel and tungsten are also sourced in these areas.

Major aluminum and iron ore producers are located in Montreal. In 2010, multinational mining company Rio Tinto reported a record aluminum output at the Arvida smelter with a 1.8% increase from the previous year. In 2008, Rio Tinto Alcan inaugurated its $225 million pilot plant project that was designed with an aluminum production capacity of 60,000 Mt per year. Meanwhile, in 2010, the copper-molybdenum mine of Gibraltar Mines Ltd. increased molybdenum output by 50% (approximately 427 tons) as compared with its 2009 output. Numerous exploration projects for indium and tin have also been underway since 2010. At the same time, tungsten mining companies resumed mining operations in 2009 when the demand for tungsten increased along with rising prices. Today, the Canadian government continues to intervene in regulating tungsten mines.

The snow-covered Coastal Mountains of British Columbia. Image Credit: CIA Factbook

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

Canada’s diamond production in 2016 reached 12.3 million carats, a slight increase from the previous years’ performance of about 10 million carats on average. By 2018, diamond production almost doubled to 20.3 million carats. Canada’s global share in diamond production is thus estimated at 8.7 percent. Key events in Canada’s recent industrial history marks the Ekati Mine company for having 39% of Canada’s total diamond production and 3% of the world’s total diamond production in 2009 and De Beers Canada Inc operating in the Snap Lake underground and the Victor open pit mines that increased diamond mining activity by 54% in 2010. Diamond explorations since such a time were facilitated in the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Nunavut Territory, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. Similarly, lithium mining explorations were also undertaken in these regions.

At present, numerous feasibility studies on fluorspar are being carried out in many areas. Canada Fluorspar Inc is one of the more well-known companies that have committed to producing fluorspar output of 120,000 to 180,000 tons per year. The company operates Newfoundland where it is currently developing its St. Lawrence Fluorspar Project.

In terms of uranium and potash, the Saskatchewan region is mainly involved in the production. Saskatchewan’s McArthur River mine is the world’s largest and highest-grade uranium deposit with an annual production of around 8,200 tons of uranium oxide. Experts believe that a yearly increase of 2% in the demand for grain will result in an increased demand for potash, especially for use in fertilizer to help increase crop yields.

Fossil Fuels

As of 2010, the natural gas reserves in Canada amounted to 1.75 billion cubic meters, and the coal reserves including anthracite, bituminous, and lignite amounted to 6.58 million metric tons. In effect, Edmonton—where these minerals are mostly found—has become a world center for oil sands expertise. The oil and gas extraction sector added $39.4 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2010.

The rising crude oil prices coupled with the advancement in technology has increased the value and production of oil sands to over a million barrels a day and promoted the creation of almost 200,000 jobs in the western part of Canada. Experts believe that the bitumen reserves in Alberta could eventually amount to 2.5 trillion barrels.

Investment

The mineral industry of Canada is predominantly export oriented, with the US being its main commercial partner. The industry has survived the economic crisis of 2009 and now strives to cope with the challenges thrown up by globalization. The location of the country helps the industry gain easy access to the major markets of China, Japan, Europe and North America, thus increasing the probability of further expansion of the industry. In 2010 alone, Canada attracted 19% of world exploration spending.

The mining sector contributes greatly to the economic growth of the country and the welfare of its citizens. In 2010, Canada’s mining sector paid $8.4 billion in taxes and royalties to the state government. It is also one of the highest paying sectors: for example, a Canadian mining worker’s average pay per week is about $1,632 at the minimum, which is more than the workers in manufacturing, forestry, finance and construction industries receive.

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) is a national organization representing the Canadian mining industry. Its members are committed towards sustainable development. The MAC works towards showcasing the industry’s interests both domestically and internationally. It works with the provincial governments on policies affecting mineral exploration, pricing, and taxes. One of its major challenges is to get the government involved in exploration and development spending near existing mines, which are most likely resource-rich areas.

According to MAC research, the mining industry has invested about $136 billion in various projects since the last decade. The growth trends displayed by China, India and other parts of the world—along with a reliable and efficient investment scenario—ensures that the Canadian mining industry will experience better economic prospects in the future.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

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G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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