Canadian Mineral Production

Canadian Mineral Production Information Bulletin

(published in May 2019)

Canada’s mining industry is a leading global producer of potash that is also ranked among the top five producers of cobalt, diamonds, gold, nickel, platinum and uranium.

The 60 minerals and metals produced by Canada’s mining industry constitute key raw materials for goods that we rely on in our daily lives and for advanced technologies that will help sustain our living standards into the future: from fertilizers and construction materials to smartphones, electric cars and solar cells.

Find out about the latest trends in Canada’s mineral production:

Overview

In 2018, total Canadian mineral production reached a value of $47.0 billion, an increase of 4.3% from the 2017 total of $45.1 billion. All commodity groups recorded gains in value, but results for underlying commodities varied, with non-metals recording the largest year-over-year increase at 8.2% or $1.1 billion.

Canada’s top five mineral products by value for 2018 were gold ($9.6 billion), coal ($6.4 billion), potash ($5.5 billion), iron ore ($4.8 billion) and copper ($4.5 billion). Four of these five minerals saw values increase during the year. Potash stood out with the highest growth as the value of production increased by 25.7% due to both higher prices and output. Only copper production saw its value decrease from last year (-3.1%). The combined value of production for the top five minerals was $30.8 billion and it accounted for two thirds of the total mineral production value.

Figure 1: Top 5 mineral products, 2017 and 2018

Table of the top 5 mineral products, 2017 and 2018 (text version below)
Figure 1 - Text version

This graphic shows Canada’s top five mineral products by value for 2018: gold ($9.6 billion), coal ($6.4 billion), potash ($5.5 billion), iron ore ($4.8 billion) and copper ($4.5 billion). The values for all commodities increased in 2018 compared to 2017, except for copper.

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.

Mining companies had been facing lower prices since a cyclical peak in 2011, largely due to oversupply in global markets. Prices started to recover in late 2016, a trend that continued into the first quarter of 2018. Later in 2018, this trend ended and declines set in for most base and precious metals. However, gold prices saw a resurgence in the final quarter of 2018 as global trade tensions and political instability spurred demand for this commodity as a safe haven.

Figure 2: Mineral production with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 1998–2018

Bar chart of mineral production with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 1998–2018 (text version below)
Figure 2 - Text version

This chart shows the value of mineral production (in current dollars) for the years 1998 to 2018. A line graph depicting the Bank of Canada’s minerals and metals price index is superimposed over the bar graph. The combined chart shows the strong correlation between the metals and minerals prices and the value of mineral production, with upward movements in the price index corresponding to rising values.

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada, Bank of Canada.

Metals

In 2018, the total value of metallic mineral production increased by 2.8% and reached $26.2 billion. See the table below for the production volumes and values of major commodities for 2017 and 2018.

Gold remained Canada’s top-ranked commodity by value of production in 2018 as its value and volume increased during the year by 8.8% and 8.9% respectively. Six new gold mines opened (Hope Bay, Brucejack, Rainy River, Moose River, Dufferin and Sugar Zone) in 2017 and 2018 while only one mine closed (Dome).

In 2018, the value of iron ore grew by 2.3% with the volume of production rising by 4.2% compared to 2017. Prices for iron ore fluctuated considerably throughout the year, but on an average annual basis, prices in 2018 were slightly below their 2017 level.

Copper prices reached a three-year peak in the first half of 2018 before levelling off and decreasing by nearly 10% later in the year. Copper output was 7.7% lower in 2018 compared to the previous year, partly due to an 18.9% decline in production in Ontario. This decrease in output contributed to a 3.1% decline in the value of copper produced in 2018 compared to 2017.

Like copper, zinc prices reached a three-year high in the first quarter of 2018, followed by a decline later in the year. The value and volume of zinc production decreased by 12.0% and 12.7% respectively.

Declines in output for base metals coincided with scheduled maintenance shutdowns at multiple sites and the closure of four mines (Reed, Stobie, Minto and Birchtree) in 2017–18, with no new openings to offset the resulting gap in production.

Uranium experienced another challenging year, with a 28.3% decline in value to reach $628.3 million and the volume of production falling by 25.6%. The McArthur River mine suspended its operations in 2018 in response to lower demand and prices, leaving Cigar Lake as the only operating uranium mine.

Battery minerals

Electric vehicle batteries and advanced energy storage technologies are made using several minerals and metals. The four main minerals and metals mined in Canada and used to make these products are cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel. Quebec is the only province that is currently producing lithium and graphite, and is the largest supplier of cobalt.

In 2018, Canada produced 3,500 tonnes of cobalt valued at $332 million. Production volumes were down 5.0% compared to the previous year, while the value of production increased 14.2% due to higher prices. Cobalt prices reached record highs in March 2018, but were down by nearly a third towards the end of the year. This drop occurred after additional supply was provided by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the world’s largest producer of cobalt, and a change in electric vehicle subsidies was made in China, leading to a decline in sales.

Canada’s first lithium mine started production in 2018. The North American Lithium mine, which belongs to Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited and produces spodumene concentrate, reached commercial production in mid-2018. Lithium prices steadily increased from January 2016 into the first half of 2018 before oversupply reversed the trend for both lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide.

The value of production for nickel increased again in 2018 (6.6%), reaching almost $3 billion as average annual prices trended significantly higher for the first six months of the year. This growth occurred despite a 14.8% drop in production volume to 176,000 tonnes, which is most likely attributable to the above-mentioned maintenance shutdowns and closures of base metal mines. Market prices for nickel continued to lag behind historic values.

Non-metals

The value of non-metallic mineral production reached $14.4 billion in 2018, an 8.2% increase compared to 2017.

Potash remained the top-ranked non-metallic commodity, with the value of mine shipments increasing by 25.7% to reach $5.5 billion in 2018. Output also increased by 10.1%. These increases follow on the heels of a period of high investment in the sector that resulted in mine expansions and a new mine opening (Bethune).

The volume of Canadian diamond production was relatively flat from 2017 to 2018 at 23.2 million carats. The value of production grew by 2.2% and reached $2.7 billion, indicating higher prices.

Sand and gravel, the third largest non-metal commodity by value and the most important by volume, experienced a decrease of 6.3% in production volume and a 7.5% decline in production value in 2018.

Coal

Despite a 10.6% decrease in output in 2018, Canada’s overall value of coal production increased by 2.0% to reach $6.4 billion in 2018 due entirely to higher coal prices. Although Canada produces both thermal and metallurgical coal, the latter has a higher price and therefore, has a greater impact on production value.

Mineral production by province and territory

Ontario led all jurisdictions with a mineral production value of $10.1 billion. It was closely followed by Quebec at $10.0 billion and British Columbia at $9.7 billion. Together, these three provinces accounted for 63.2% of Canada’s total mineral production value in 2018. Ontario’s growth was relatively flat from 2017 to 2018 while British Columbia saw a 7.3% increase from last year due to higher production values in gold, coal and copper. Gold and iron ore were the main contributing commodities for Quebec’s 11.9% increase in production value in 2018.

Figure 3: Value of mineral production by province and territory, 2017 and 2018

Map displaying the value of mineral production by province and territory, 2017 and 2018 (text version below)
Figure 3 - Text version

This map of Canada has superimposed bar charts (two bars for the years 2017 and 2018) showing the amount of mineral production (in current dollars) for each province and territory. The top mineral producers by value in 2017 were Ontario ($10.1 billion), Quebec ($10.0 billion) and British Columbia ($9.7 billion).

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
B = billion.

Interpreting variations

The value of mineral production depends on market prices and the quantity of material shipped from mines. The volume of shipments most often will vary because of shifts in ore grade, changes to mine production capacity and mine expansions, openings, closings and suspensions. Mineral and metal prices typically fluctuate in response to changes in demand and the suppliers’ ability to react to these changes. As most metals and minerals are equal in nature, individual mining companies have very limited influence on the price of their product and are therefore considered “price takers”. Exchange rates and their fluctuations can also have an impact on the value of mineral production since most are priced in U.S. dollars.

Table 1: Canada’s mineral production, by leading commodity, 2017 and 2018 (p)
Commodity 2017 2018 (p) Change
Volume Value Volume Value Volume Value
(000 tonnes except where indicated) ($ millions) (000 tonnes except where indicated) ($ millions) (%) (%)
METALLIC MINERALS
Copper 580.1 4,639.5 535.5 4,495.1 -7.7 -3.1
Gold (kilograms) 168.1 8,817.0 183.0 9,590.4 8.9 8.8
Iron ore 50,299.5 4,693.0 52,387.5 4,801.7 4.2 2.3
Nickel 206.4 2,787.0 175.8 2,970.9 -14.8 6.6
Zinc 305.3 1,146.8 266.6 1,009.5 -12.7 -12.0
Other metals n.a. 3,401.7 n.a. 3,333.0 n.a. -2.0
Total metals n.a. 25,485.0 n.a. 26,200.5 n.a. 2.8
NON-METALLIC MINERALS
Diamonds
(000 carats)
23,198.8 2,677.7 23,239.9 2,735.7 0.2 2.2
Potash (K2O) 12,562.7 4,371.1 13,834.7 5,494.3 10.1 25.7
Sand and gravel 231,219.0 2,095.0 216,707.4 1,938.3 -6.3 -7.5
Stone 169,518.3 1,747.1 166,488.2 1,715.4 -1.8 -1.8
Other
non-metals
n.a. 2,413.2 n.a. 2,514.1 n.a. 4.2
Total
non-metals
n.a. 13,304.1 n.a. 14,397.9 n.a. 8.2
Coal 60,750.0 6,280.9 54,325.8 6,408.4 -10.6 2.0
Total production n.a. 45,070.1 n.a. 47,006.8 n.a. 4.3

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
p = preliminary, n.a. = not applicable.

Notes and sources

Notes

Sources

  • Statistics Canada, Annual Mineral Production Survey.
  • Statistics Canada, Monthly Coal Supply and Disposition Survey.
  • Natural Resources Canada; Principal Mineral Areas, Producing Mines, and Oil and Gas Fields in Canada.
  • Company reports.
  • Company websites.