Mineral Trade

Information Bulletin

(Published in November 2018)

Canada is a trading nation and its abundant natural resources play an important role in its success.

Find out how Canada’s mineral trade is performing:

Overview

Mineral trade by country

Balance of trade

Trade by mineral category

Mineral trade by province and territory

Tables

Overview

Canada supplies ores, concentrates and semi-fabricated and fabricated metal and mineral products to over 100 countries.

In 2017, Canada experienced strong mineral trade growth with its major trading partners:

  • United States (Canada’s largest trading partner)
  • China
  • European Union (EU)
  • Japan
  • South Korea

Domestic mineral exports increased 10% from 2016 to $97.5 billion in 2017, marking the largest gain in 10 years and accounting for 19% of the value of the country’s total merchandise exports.

The value of mineral imports increased 6% compared to the previous year to reach $81.6 billion in 2017, representing 14% of Canada’s total merchandise imports.

Overall, Canada’s mineral trade balance increased 26% to $19.9 billion in 2017 as growth in exports (10%) outpaced growth in imports (6%).

Figure 1: Mineral exports, imports and balance of trade, 2008–17

Figure 1: Mineral exports, imports and balance of trade, 2008–17
Text version - Figure 1
Figure 1: Mineral exports, imports and balance of trade ($ billions), 2008–17
Year Total imports Total exports Balance of trade
2008 68.7 93.0 24.3
2009 54.7 65.0 10.3
2010 66.1 83.2 17.1
2011 76.7 100.3 23.6
2012 75.5 91.1 15.6
2013 73.4 90.0 16.6
2014 79.9 93.3 13.4
2015 80.9 96.2 15.3
2016 77.0 92.9 15.9
2017 81.6 101.5 19.9

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
Note: Mineral includes coal.

 

Mineral trade by country

Mineral exports to Canada’s seven largest trading partners increased on a year-over-year basis from 2016.

The United States remained Canada’s largest trading partner. Its share of Canada’s mineral exports was 53.4%, which is slightly lower than the 2016 share of 55.2%. The EU (21.7%), China (4.8%) and Japan (4.2%) remained the next most important destinations for Canada’s mineral exports. Together, these four economies accounted for over 80% of exports.

Notable developments in Canada’s 2017 mineral exports compared to 2016

The share of Canada’s mineral exports to the EU and China remained stable. Export growth with regard to these countries increased 10.8% and 10.3% respectively in 2017 due to:

  • Rising commodity prices, for the most part
  • The establishment of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
  • Sustained economic growth in China

Export values to the United States rose for the following minerals:

  • Copper (+28.2% to $3.8 billion)
  • Aluminum (+20.3% to $11.1 billion)
  • Iron and steel (+15.5% to $13.0 billion)

Export values to the United States declined for:

  • Platinum group metals (-52.4% to $0.5 billion)
  • Silver (-36.7% to $1.0 billion)
  • Gold (-24.7% to $4.0 billion)

Aluminum exports to the second and third most important destinations following the United States increased:

  • Second destination – Mexico ($44 million or 12.2%)
  • Third destination – Japan (more than 50% to $328.6 million)

Coal exports to two countries increased:

  • Japan ($620.1 million or 57.7%)
  • South Korea ($453.2 million or 50.9%)

Mineral imports were mainly from the United States (47.5%), followed by China (11.8%), the EU (8.3%), Mexico (5.1%), Japan (3.6%) and Brazil (2.9%).

The market share of mineral imports from the EU remained steady at 8.3%. China’s share increased marginally in 2017 to 11.8% from the previous year (10.9%). The value of mineral imports from Japan increased over 75% compared to the previous year as a result of an increase in gold imports. This caused a jump in market share from 2.2% to 3.6%.

Consult Table 1 to know more about mineral commodity export and import values for Canada’s leading mineral trade partners in 2017.

Balance of trade

Canada’s balance of trade for mineral commodities increased 25.7% to $19.9 billion in 2017 from $15.8 billion in 2016.

Canada traditionally runs a large positive trade balance for manufacturing stages 1 and 2. They grew by 28.6% to $20.7 billion and 7.6% to $23.3 billion respectively in 2017. Canada’s trade balances tend to be negative for manufacturing stages 3 (-$4.3 billion) and 4 (-$19.8 billion).

Trade surpluses with the United States ($16.5 billion) and the EU ($14.7 billion) offset all trade deficits with other countries. They contributed over $31 billion to the mineral commodity trade balance.

The source of Canada’s trade surplus with the United States came from stage 2 ($16.3 billion), followed by stage 3 ($2.2 billion) and stage 1 ($1.8 billion). This surplus offset our trade deficit in stage 4 (-$3.7 billion).

Canada’s trade surplus in mineral products with South Korea grew 35.4% to $1.7 billion in 2017, due in part to a 51% increase in the value of coal exports. Canada also maintained a trade surplus of over $1 billion with Japan ($1.3 billion), Norway ($1.3 billion) and India ($1.2 billion). Over the past six years, Canada’s trade surplus has been steadily growing with India while slowly declining with Japan.

China, Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Argentina continued to export more to Canada than import (Table 1). Therefore, there continued to be a negative trade balance of more than $1 billion with these countries in 2017.

Check Table 2 for data on Canada’s mineral trade for each manufacturing stage:

  • Stage 1 – Mineral extraction products
  • Stage 2 – Smelting and refining products
  • Stage 3 – Semi-fabricated products
  • Stage 4 – Fabricated products

Trade by mineral category

Increases were recorded for all mineral categories in 2017 compared to 2016.

Figure 2: Mineral exports and imports by mineral category, 2008–17

Figure 2: Mineral exports and imports by mineral category, 2008–17
Text version - Figure 2
Figure 2: Mineral exports and imports by mineral category ($ billions), 2008–17
Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Metals, domestic exports 67.1 47.3 61.4 72.8 67.5 68.0 71.8 72.7 71.0 76.1
Non-metals, domestic exports 16.7 10.3 12.5 14.8 13.8 13.1 13.3 15.5 12.8 14.2
Coal, domestic exports 6.4 5.1 6.2 8.4 6.8 5.8 4.5 3.8 4.7 7.1
Total domestic exports 90.2 62.7 80.2 95.9 88.1 86.9 89.6 92.0 88.5 97.4
Metals, imports 57.3 45.4 55.9 65.7 63.9 61.6 66.8 66.6 63.3 67.0
Non-metals, imports 9.4 8.1 8.9 9.8 10.3 10.9 12.0 13.0 12.9 13.4
Coal, imports 1.9 1.2 1.4 1.2 1.2 0.9 1.1 1.2 0.9 1.2
Total imports 68.7 54.7 66.1 76.7 75.5 73.4 79.9 80.9 77.0 81.6

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
Note: Stages 1 to 4 for metals and non-metals and stages 1 to 3 for coal.

 

Metallic products make up Canada’s largest share of mineral exports. They represented 78.1% ($76.1 billion) of the total in 2017, which is the highest proportion in the past decade. Imports of metallic products increased to $67.0 billion in 2017 compared to $63.3 billion in 2016.

Notable developments in Canada’s 2017 metallic product exports and imports compared to 2016

The value of aluminum (19.3%), copper (17.3%), gold (1.9%), iron ore (7.2%) and zinc (14.7%) exports increased in 2017 due in part to higher prices. The value of cobalt exports also increased 88.9% to $565 million. It augmented solely from higher prices, as volumes declined by 18.7%.

A reduction in export values was registered for platinum group metals (-34.1%), nickel (-9.8%), silver (-36.4%) and uranium and thorium (-17.3%) in 2017.

The growth in imports was due to increases for aluminum (13.1%), copper (40.8%), iron ore (11.1%) and nickel (19.9%).

Precious metals such as silver and gold showed a decline in both import volumes and values. In the case of gold, imported volume dropped 8.3% compared to 2016. However, higher gold prices kept the value of imports stable.

Zinc import volumes declined 4.0% in 2017 compared to 2016. However, zinc values increased 29.8% due to higher prices.

Refer to Table 3 to find out more about Canada’s 2017 metallic product exports and imports.

Non-metallic products experienced growth in both exports and imports. Exports increased to $14.2 billion in 2017, up 10.7% from 2016. The value of non-metallic imports increased to $13.4 billion in 2017 from $12.9 billion. It is the highest value recorded in the past decade.

Notable developments in Canada’s 2017 non-metallic product exports and imports compared to 2016

Gains in exports can be attributed to an 8.3% increase in the value of potash and potassium compounds exports (total of $5.1 billion) and a 32.3% increase in the value of diamond exports (total of $2.6 billion).

Other significant export products that saw growth in 2017 are phosphate and phosphate compounds (+38.2%), sand and gravel (+26.7%) and titanium oxides (+23.7%).

Gains in imports can be attributed to increases in glass and glassware products (+4.6%), graphite (+22.5%) and silica and silica compounds (+40.7%). Conversely, import values of phosphate and phosphate compounds declined 12.3%, while increasing 21.7% in volume. This data indicates a decline in commodity prices.

Similar to 2016, the majority (89.5%) of the 2017 value of trade in non-metallic imports can be attributed to stages 3 (38.6%) and 4 (50.9%).

Coal and coke products experienced a tumultuous period in 2017. Despite this, export values increased substantially to $7.1 billion. These gains represent a 49.4% increase from 2016 ($4.7 billion).

Notable developments in Canada’s 2017 coal and coke product exports compared to 2016

Volatile markets in China and events, such as Cyclone Debbie in northeastern Australia, pushed metallurgical coal prices up in 2017. This type of coal comprised the majority of Canada’s coal exports (92.6%).

Nonetheless, export volumes for coal experienced an increase, but only by 2.5% from 2016.

Mineral trade by province and territory

Ontario and Quebec continued to be the top two provinces for mineral exports and imports:

  • Ontario accounted for 44.8% of export values
  • Quebec represented 23.3% of the value of Canadian exports
  • Due in part to higher coal prices, British Columbia’s value of mineral exports increased to 14.8% compared to 12.7% the previous year
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s export values grew by 40.1% ($2.6 billion)
  • Northwest Territories experienced notable gains with an increase of 41.2% ($2.0 billion)
  • Yukon experienced a significant decline in the value of its mineral exports from $217.0 million in 2016 to $102.9 million in 2017. This decline is attributable to lower copper production from the territory’s only active mine, the Capstone Minto Mine.

The contribution of mineral exports from provinces and territories to total merchandise exports remained consistent in 2017 compared to 2016 with the exception of Nunavut, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador:

  • Due to a surge in gold exports to Switzerland, Nunavut’s mineral exports became the major contributor to its total domestic exports representing 97.8% compared to 3.6%
  • British Columbia’s mineral exports also grew to 33.0% in 2017 from 28.9% in 2016 with the rise of aluminum and gold exports
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s growth in iron ore and nickel exports generated a greater share in mineral export contributions from 22.6% to 26.1% in 2017

The value of mineral imports grew consistently across most provinces and territories with Ontario (59.8%) and Quebec (15.7%) accounting for the lion’s share of Canadian imports.

The balance of trade in mineral exports varied among the provinces and territories.

The following jurisdictions exhibited trade deficits in 2017:

  • Ontario (-$1.5 billion)
  • Alberta (-$1.3 billion)
  • Manitoba (-$1.8 billion)
  • New Brunswick (-$439.0 million)
  • Nova Scotia (-$235.6 million)
  • Prince Edward Island (-$3.6 million)

The remaining jurisdictions posted a trade surplus:

  • Quebec accounted for over half of the national trade surplus in 2017, of $19.9 billion
  • British Columbia experienced the largest growth in its trade surplus, rising from slightly under $3 billion in 2016 to $5.4 billion in 2017. This increase was mainly the result of an increase in the value of its coal exports.

Refer to Table 4 for additional information about provincial and territorial mineral trade.

Tables

Table 1: Value of Canadian mineral trade by country, 2017
Country Domestic
exports
($ thousands)
Total
exports
($ thousands)
Total
imports
($ thousands)
Balance
of trade
($ thousands)
United States 52,069,112 55,303,077 38,777,722 16,525,355
EU-28 21,176,321 21,482,552 6,776,600 14,705,952
China 4,674,550 4,717,853 9,595,250 -4,877,397
Japan 4,104,562 4,125,977 2,956,250 1,169,727
South Korea 2,992,041 3,000,034 1,250,716 1,749,318
India 2,195,900 2,213,025 922,786 1,290,239
Mexico 1,501,102 1,571,474 4,125,782 -2,554,308
Brazil 804,014 817,133 2,403,650 -1,586,517
Taiwan 772,899 776,762 1,216,943 -440,181
Hong Kong 477,973 531,253 138,298 392,955
Botswana 571,201 571,209 1,034 570,175
Indonesia 400,814 403,013 141,900 261,113
Peru 31,658 35,115 1,252,087 -1,216,972
Argentina 76,712 80,562 1,466,612 -1,386,049
Other countries 5,617,559 5,863,073 10,588,042 -4,724,969
Total (Canada) 97,466,419 101,492,112 81,613,671 19,878,441

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
Notes: Mineral includes coal.
Totals may be different because of rounding.

Table 2: Value of Canadian mineral trade by stage, 2017
Stage Domestic
exports
($ thousands)
Total
 exports
($ thousands)
Total
imports
($ thousands)
Balance
of trade
($ thousands)
Stage 1 29,916,952 29,964,103 9,270,541 20,693,562
Stage 2 36,669,827 37,102,002 13,799,390 23,302,612
Stage 3 16,891,819 17,991,793 22,309,072 -4,317,279
Stage 4 13,987,821 16,434,214 36,234,669 -19,800,455
Total 97,466,419 101,492,112 81,613,672 19,878,440

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
Notes: Mineral includes coal.
Totals may be different because of rounding.

Table 3: Value of Canadian mineral export trade by commodity,
2016 and 2017
Commodity 2016
($ thousands)
2017
($ thousands)
Gold 18,417,339 18,618,664
Iron and steel 12,862,276 14,913,045
Aluminum 10,680,607 12,741,300
Copper 6,103,832 7,221,368
Miscellaneous metal products 6,020,087 5,924,432
Coal and coke 4,749,583 7,094,120
Potash and
potassium compounds
4,697,216 5,085,906
Nickel 4,187,628 3,777,418
Iron ore 3,795,973 4,561,275
Diamonds 1,994,206 2,638,297
Uranium and thorium 1,981,435 1,639,465
Zinc 1,798,270 2,063,353
Silver 1,639,529 1,042,493
Platinum group metals 1,233,422 813,262
All other minerals 8,470,085 9,332,020
Total 88,631,488 97,466,419

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
Notes: Mineral includes coal.
Totals may be different because of rounding.

Table 4: Value of Canadian mineral trade by jurisdiction, 2017
Province / Territory Domestic mineral
exports
($ thousands)
Total mineral
exports
($ thousands)
Total mineral
imports
($ thousands)
Mineral balance
of trade
($ thousands)
Total domestic
exports
($ thousands)
Domestic mineral exports as a percentage
of the
total (%)
Alberta 2,721,260 2,782,150 4,121,365 -1,339,215 100,159,809 2.7%
British Columbia 14,408,994 14,486,837 9,096,259 5,390,578 43,698,703 33.0%
Manitoba 1,516,719 1,524,693 3,358,894 -1,834,201 13,839,408 11.0%
New Brunswick 573,184 573,312 1,011,872 -438,560 12,872,623 4.5%
Newfoundland and Labrador 2,654,185 2,660,054 210,386 2,449,668 10,150,279 26.1%
Northwest Territories 2,025,207 2,025,239 0 2,025,238 2,026,714 99.9%
Nova Scotia 310,963 319,611 555,153 -235,542 5,362,867 5.8%
Nunavut 320,017 320,052 8,535 311,517 327,332 97.8%
Ontario 43,707,139 47,364,264 48,819,235 -1,454,971 199,846,153 21.9%
Prince Edward Island 19,112 19,722 23,301 -3,579 1,318,388 1.4%
Quebec 22,739,354 22,942,882 12,831,212 10,111,670 83,421,576 27.3%
Saskatchewan 6,367,422 6,369,373 1,572,410 4,796,963 28,896,108 22.0%
Yukon 102,864 103,925 5,050 98,875 108,125 95.1%
Total 97,466,420 101,492,113 81,613,673 19,878,441 502,028,083 19.4%

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
Notes: Mineral includes coal.
Totals may be different because of rounding.
The export data in this table are attributed to the province or territory of origin and the import data to the province or territory of clearance. As an example, gold mined in Yukon that is refined in Ontario, and then exported, would be attributed to Ontario.