Mineral Trade

Information Bulletin, November 2016

(published in January 2017)

Canada’s 2015 Mineral Trade Balance: $16.2 Billion

Trade in mineral commodities, which include ores, concentrates, and semi- and final-fabricated mineral products, has long been a substantial contributor to Canada’s international trade position, and this trend continued in 2015. Mineral exports of $92.0 billion accounted for 19.1% of the country’s total merchandise export value and mineral imports of $79.5 billion accounted for 14.9% of Canada’s total merchandise import value. Canada’s mineral trade balance grew year over year by 18.2% to $16.2 billion due to a greater gain in the value of exports (3.2%) than imports (0.6%) in 2015 (Figure 1).Footnote 1

Trade by Country

The United States continued to be Canada’s largest trading partner for mineral commodities, accounting for 54.9% of exports and 49.6% of imports in 2015. The European Union (EU) (19.9%), China (5.0%), and Japan (3.3%) were the next most significant destinations for Canada’s mineral exports. Together these trading partners accounted for over 80% of mineral exports. In terms of mineral commodity imports, after the United States, China (10.8%), the EU (9.9%), Mexico (4.7%), Peru (3.5%), Brazil (2.0%), and Argentina (1.8%) ranked as the next most significant sources.

With the diversification of the country’s trading partners, Canada’s share of mineral commodity exports destined for the United States experienced a steady decline between 2000 (77.1%) and 2012 (48.2%). Early results suggest this trend has since been reversing as the United States now accounts for 54.9% of total mineral exports. China’s share decreased from 5.6% ($5.2 billion) in 2014 to 5.0% ($4.6 billion) in 2015, which is the first decline since 2000 when its share was just 1.6%. This decline can largely be attributed to a slowdown in the growth of China’s economy and an ongoing transition from manufacturing to domestic consumption and services, which now accounts for a larger share of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) than the industrial sector does.

Canada’s mineral commodity exports to other emerging economies, including India, Mexico, Indonesia, and Brazil, have increased substantially over the last decade. India continues to be an important destination for Canada’s mineral commodities with exports valued at $1.7 billion in 2015. Gains for diamonds and gold contributed significantly to the 32.9% increase recorded over 2014. Other key export destinations were Botswana, where diamond exports grew 12.4%, and Argentina, where Canadian exports of uranium and thorium experienced a 206.7% increase resulting from the country’s developing nuclear power plants for electricity generation.

A diversified portfolio of destinations for Canada’s mineral commodities mitigates market concentration risks. However, producers face competition to supply growing foreign markets across the globe. Table 1 provides mineral commodity export and import values for Canada’s leading trade partners in 2015.

Balance of Trade

Canada’s balance of tradeFootnote 2 for mineral commodities increased to $16.2 billion in 2015 after having dropped slightly in 2014 to $13.7 billion. The country’s mineral commodity trade balance remained strong as Canada continued to maintain substantial trade surpluses with the United States, the EU, Japan, Hong Kong, and Norway. Alternatively, imports from China, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile exceeded Canada’s exports to these countries (Table 1).

Trade by Manufacturing Stage

Traditionally, Canada runs large positive trade balances in Stage 1 – mineral extraction ($18.3 billion in 2015) and Stage 2 – smelting and refining ($20.4 billion). Trade balances in Stage 3 (semi-fabrication) tend to be neutral or slightly negative (-$3.8 billion in 2015) while balances for Stage 4 (fabrication) are normally large and negative (-$18.6 billion). This trend highlights Canada’s natural resource wealth, its strength in mineral extraction, and changing patterns of production and use along value chains. As a result, Canada tends to export ore and primary metals while importing fabricated goods. Table 2 shows Canada’s mineral trade by manufacturing stage.Footnote 1

Trade by Mineral Category

Metallic Products

Metallic products usually account for the largest share of Canada’s mineral commodity exports, and in 2015 they represented 79.0% of the value (Figure 2). Metallic product exports continued to increase in 2015 for the third year to $72.7 billion. Despite weaker mineral commodity prices throughout 2015, export volumes for many metallic products experienced an upward trend, namely gold, platinum group metals, and silver. While the value of copper and gold products fell due to declining prices, the value of aluminum, uranium and thorium, and zinc products increased relative to volume in 2015. In the case of platinum group metals, their export volume and value increased by 386.7% and 112.4%, respectively. This upward trend is attributable to significant growth in countries that manufacture automobiles, including a 200.3% value increase to the United States and a 43.3% value increase to Germany.

Imports of metallic products dipped 1.2% to $66.1 billion in 2015 after an 8.5% increase in 2014. Platinum group metals, silver, and zinc products showed increases in import volume and value. The value of aluminum and uranium and thorium products rose on the strength of stronger prices. In contrast, copper, iron, steel, and iron ore products saw a decline in both import volume and value.

Nonmetallic Products

Canada’s export value of nonmetallic products advanced significantly by 17.6% to $15.5 billion in 2015. This was the result of gains for a large number of nonmetallic products, most notably for potash and potassium products where exports increased 31.2% to $6.9 billion with a 3.4% volume increase from 2014. Exports of cement ($854 million) increased 36.3% in value and 25.3% in volume. There were also significant increases in the value and volume of sulphur, sulphur compounds, peat, and titanium oxides. Salt and sodium compounds, chlorine and chlorine compounds, and mineral pigments all saw a decrease in volume, but an increase in value. Conversely, diamonds, which is among Canada’s most valuable nonmetallic exports at $2.4 billion, experienced declines in both value (-6.3%) and volume (-8.1%).

The value of nonmetallic product imports increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2015 by 8.6% to $12.6 billion. As in previous years, most nonmetallic product groups experienced year-over-year gains. Notable increases included glass and glassware products, which were up 14.4% to $3.2 billion, and phosphate and phosphate compounds, which experienced a 15.5% increase to $959 million. The bulk (89%) of the nonmetallic product imports value resulted from semi- and final-fabricated products (stages 3 and 4).

Coal and Coke Products

Exports of metallurgical coal (coking coal used to produce iron and steel) and coke products decreased significantly in both volume (-10.2%) and value (-16.3%) in 2015. This decrease was driven by the shutdown of a number of coal mines in western Canada in the face of a downward trend in metallurgical coal prices since 2012. Exports of thermal coal (used to produce electricity) decreased 28.4% in volume while their value decreased 30.9%

Imports of total coal and coke products experienced a decrease in volume (-2.5%), but an increase in value (7.0%).

Trade by Province and Territory

As in the past, the majority of Canada’s mineral commodity trade flowed to and from Ontario and Quebec in 2015 (Table 4). The two provinces accounted for 47.3% and 22.7% of exports, respectively. Similarly, Ontario accounted for 59.7% of imports and Quebec for 15.0%. This is a function of large portions of mine outputs being processed in these jurisdictions before export and the prevalence of manufacturing industries. It also reflects the importance of these two provinces as key entry points for Canadian mineral commodity imports due to geographic proximity to large consumer markets.

Mineral commodity exports represented a significant proportion of total exports for many provinces and territories. They accounted for nearly all exports from the Northwest Territories, 95.8% from Yukon, and over 25% from British Columbia.

The balance of trade for mineral commodities in each jurisdiction was mixed. Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario posted trade deficits. British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon all posted trade surpluses.

All jurisdictions except New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan had trade surpluses in Stage 1 (mineral extraction) and Stage 2  (smelting and refining), once again highlighting Canada’s strength in upstream activities and primary processing.

Note: Information in this bulletin was current as of November 1, 2016.


Figure 1
Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Trade, 2006-15

Figure 1 - Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Trade, 2006-15

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Note: Mineral trade includes coal.

Text version - Figure 1
Figure 1. Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Trade ($ Billions), 2006-15
Year Total
Imports
Total
Exports
Balance
of Trade
2006 61.6 74.2 12.5
2007 62.2 83.6 21.4
2008 68.7 93.0 24.3
2009 54.7 65.0 10.3
2010 66.1 83.2 17.1
2011 76.7 100.2 23.6
2012 75.1 91.1 16.0
2013 73.0 90.0 17.0
2014 79.5 93.2 13.7
2015 79.9 96.2 16.2

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Note: Mineral trade includes coal.


Figure 2
Value of Trade of Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Products, 2006-15

Figure 2 - Value of Trade of Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Products, 2006-15

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Note: Stages 1 to 4 for metals and nonmetals; stages 1 to 3 for coal.

Text version - Figure 2
Figure 2. Value of Trade of Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Products
($ Billions), 2006-15
Sub-Sector 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Metals, domestic exports 58.0 66.2 67.1 47.3 61.4 72.8 67.5 68.0 71.7 72.7
Nonmetals, domestic exports 9.9 10.6 16.7 10.3 12.5 14.8 13.8 13.1 13.2 15.5
Coal, domestic exports 3.4 3.2 6.4 5.1 6.2 8.4 6.8 5.8 4.5 3.8
Total exports 71.4 80.1 90.2 62.7 80.2 95.9 88.1 86.9 89.4 92.0
Metals, imports 52.0 52.5 57.3 45.4 55.9 65.7 63.8 61.5 66.7 66.1
Nonmetals, imports 8.1 8.4 9.4 8.1 8.9 9.8 10.1 10.6 11.6 12.6
Coal, imports 1.5 1.3 1.9 1.2 1.4 1.2 1.2 0.9 1.1 1.2
Total imports 61.6 62.2 68.7 54.7 66.1 76.7 75.1 73.0 79.5 79.9

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Note: Stages 1 to 4 for metals and nonmetals; stages 1 to 3 for coal.

 
 

Table 1. Value of Canadian Mineral Trade by Country, 2015
Country Domestic
Exports
($000)
Total
Exports
($000)
Total
Imports
($000)
Balance
of Trade
($000)
United States 50,452,666 53,612,935 39,687,332 13,925,604
EU-28 18,341,302 18,806,262 7,912,776 10,893,486
China 4,631,400 4,677,629 8,662,078 -3,984,449
Japan 3,021,109 3,040,324 1,236,529 1,803,795
South Korea 2,037,033 2,071,532 1,092,756 978,776
Hong Kong 1,972,739 2,009,302 77,569 1,931,734
India 1,717,769 1,738,432 834,489 903,943
Norway 1,459,482 1,536,303 149,330 1,386,973
Mexico 1,164,057 1,234,170 3,787,415 -2,553,244
Brazil 1,139,786 1,151,424 1,633,753 -482,328
Botswana 698,988 699,015 1,844 697,171
Chile 168,066 173,957 937,097 -763,140
Argentina 93,716 99,319 1,429,513 -1,330,195
Peru 37,987 42,853 2,792,780 -2,749,928
Other countries 5,040,712 5,265,786 9,714,407 -4,448,621
Total Canada 91,976,813 96,159,243 79,949,668 16,209,575

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Notes: Mineral trade includes coal. Numbers may not add to totals due to rounding.

 
 

Table 2. Value of Canadian Mineral Trade by Stage, 2015
Stage Domestic
Exports
($000)
Total
Exports
($000)
Total
Imports
($000)
Balance
of Trade
($000)
Stage 1 26,151,297 26,248,178 7,933,993 18,314,185
Stage 2 34,668,083 35,114,641 14,735,670 20,378,971
Stage 3 16,108,183 17,220,022 21,053,945 -3,833,923
Stage 4 15,049,251 17,576,402 36,226,060 -18,649,658
Total 91,976,813 96,159,243 79,949,668 16,209,575

 
 

Table 3. Value of Canadian Mineral Export Trade by Commodity, 2014 and 2015
Commodity 2014
($000)
2015
($000)
Gold 17,922,976 17,591,894
Iron and steel 13,698,836 13,589,850
Aluminum 9,790,633 10,494,937
Copper 6,956,599 6,871,346
Potash and potassium compounds 5,226,599 6,859,392
Miscellaneous metal products 5,866,456 6,217,653
Nickel 5,436,114 5,402,613
Coal and coke 4,452,676 3,815,643
Iron ore 4,417,662 3,590,636
Diamonds 2,528,763 2,368,658
Zinc 1,587,790 1,741,786
Uranium and thorium 1,356,142 1,739,820
Silver 1,348,828 1,734,874
Platinum group metals 578,344 1,228,192
All other minerals 8,253,696 8,729,518
Total 89,422,114 91,976,813

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Note: Mineral trade includes coal. Numbers may not add to totals due to rounding.

 
 

Table 4. Value of Canadian Mineral Trade by Jurisdiction, 2015
Province/ Territory Domestic Mineral Exports
($000)
Total Mineral Exports
($000)
Total Mineral Imports
($000)
Mineral Balance of Trade
($000)
Total Domestic Exports
($000)
Domestic Mineral Exports as a Percentage of Provincial/ Territorial
Total (%)
Alberta 2,927,620 3,004,155 4,614,595 -1,610,440 92,440,940 3.2
British Columbia 9,964,209 10,082,835 8,622,958 1,459,877 35,865,524 27.8
Manitoba 1,849,325 1,854,938 3,261,578 -1,406,640 13,718,228 13.5
New Brunswick 714,497 714,846 1,154,324 -439,479 12,210,080 5.9
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,685,782 1,774,958 159,491 1,615,467 9,095,801 18.5
Northwest Territories 1,842,242 1,842,242 1,842,242 1,845,327 99.8
Nova Scotia 289,349 300,362 717,739 -417,376 5,389,710 5.4
Nunavut 945 1,298 2 1,295 9,774 9.7
Ontario 43,502,104 47,079,662 47,755,190 -675,528 196,962,558 22.1
Prince Edward Island 26,235 27,255 26,786 469 1,243,104 2.1
Quebec 20,839,304 21,028,730 12,021,297 9,007,433 80,148,147 26.0
Saskatchewan 8,230,483 8,343,037 1,610,581 6,732,455 32,601,534 25.2
Yukon 104,717 104,925 5,126 99,799 109,307 95.8
Total Canada 91,976,813 96,159,243 79,949,668 16,209,575 481,640,034 19.1

Sources: Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada.
Nil.
Notes: Mineral trade includes coal. Numbers may not add to totals due to rounding. The export data in this table are attributed to the province or territory of origin and the import data are attributed 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.


© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources, 2017