Mineral Exploration



Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) coordinates the collection of statistics for off-mine-site and on-mine-site expenditures for the exploration and deposit appraisal phases and the mine complex development phase. NRCan and Statistics Canada cooperate with the provinces and territories to collect, assemble, and publish comprehensive national mineral resource development statistics. These are compiled from the federal-provincial/territorial Survey of Mineral Exploration, Deposit Appraisal and Mine Complex Development Expenditures. To protect the confidential data provided by respondents, only aggregate statistics are released.

The Federal-Provincial/Territorial Committee on Mineral Statistics ensures harmonization of methodology and definitions on a national scale. Definitions covering activities by work phases of mineral resource development were introduced in the 1997 survey. Since then, complete coverage of project evolution from exploration to mine production allows a better understanding of each of its components now illustrated in the statistical tables. The Generalized Model of Mineral Resource Development describes the mineral resource development and mining process model upon which the survey definitions are based.


Programs, policies, and other types of decisions need to be taken using the most current information. Since the 2003 survey year, the annual questionnaire requesting final data results has been modified to integrate the revised spending intentions of the following year. This is in order to update the intentions collected several months before the start of the annual survey through the preliminary estimates and intentions survey. Furthermore, to accelerate the final survey, there is a repeat of the preliminary estimates for small spenders with projects valued at less than $200 000.

Exploration, Deposit Appraisal and Mine Complex Development Statistics: How Are They Gathered?

Surveys are conducted through a joint effort between the federal government and participating provinces and territories. NRCan coordinates the Survey of Mineral Exploration, Deposit Appraisal and Mine Complex Development Expenditures. Questionnaires are distributed to all active companies in Canada. Companies are asked to report expenditures for the calendar year.

How Frequently Are These Data Collected?

The exploration survey is conducted twice a year. The preliminary survey is conducted during the last quarter of the year. A more detailed survey, scheduled for the following spring, covers actual mineral development activity for the current year and revised intentions for the coming year.

Brief History of Exploration Statistics

Canadian exploration statistics have been collected, in one form or another, since 1946. From 1946 through 1963, Statistics Canada compiled "cost of prospecting" data for Canada and the provinces for metal mines. Companies were surveyed from 1964 through 1966, but the data were not compiled. Based on the survey questionnaires for those three years, expenditures were estimated by NRCan. From 1967 through 1987, Statistics Canada compiled and published both on-mine-site and general exploration (off-mine-site) and mine-site development expenditures and capital, repair and maintenance expenditures associated with mine-site development. From 1985 to 1987, NRCan collected, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, detailed field work expenses. Since 1988, NRCan has been fully responsible for the survey of firms with any general (off-mine-site) exploration expenses. Statistics Canada, jointly with NRCan, coordinates the data collection and dissemination of results and publishes data for producing companies (on-mine-site expenditures).

In 1997, with the redesigned survey 1997 Preliminary Estimates and 1998 Forecast Expenditures, new definitions were introduced to better describe the full mineral development cycle. For example, exploration was divided between primary exploration and deposit appraisal. New information such as engineering, economic and pre- or production feasibility studies, environment, and land access costs were also collected to better reflect the exploration and mining industry.

Key Definitions

Generalized Model of Mineral Resource Development

Reporting Guide (HTML) (PDF)

Junior and Senior Companies

Senior Companies

Senior companies normally derive their income from mining or other business ventures (they need not be mining companies) rather than from the issue of treasury shares.

Junior Companies

The following criteria define a junior company:

  1. It is neither a producing (or committed to production) company nor the recipient of significant income from production or from some other business venture.
  2. Exploration funding does not come largely from accumulated cash flow from previous production or from the investment income from such funds.
  3. The exploration funds are not provided by a senior company that controls more than half the issued shares of the subsidiary company in question.
  4. The principal way of raising exploration funds is the issue of treasury shares.
  5. The company is not primarily an oil and gas producer, the exploration arm of a large company, or foreign based (the head office of the company or ultimate parent is not in Canada).  
  6. It is not a government organization.

The above criteria are essentially identical to those of Kalymon et al (1978, pp. 13-14) and Freyman (1978, Appendix A, p. 2).

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