Mineral Trade

Information Bulletin, 2016

(published in August 2017)

Mineral Exports to Emerging Economies Grow;
United States Remains Canada’s Largest Mineral Trading Partner

Mineral commodities, which include ores, concentrates, and semi- and final-fabricated mineral products, are a significant contributor to Canada’s international trade position. This trend continued in 2016 with mineral exports totaling $88.6 billion,Footnote 1Footnote 2 down slightly from $92.0 billion in 2015, accounting for 18.9% of the country’s total merchandise export value. Mineral imports totaled $77.0 billion, down from $80.9 billion in 2015, accounting for 14.4% of Canada’s total merchandise import value in 2016. Canada’s mineral trade balance increased 3.5% year over year to $15.8 billion due to a greater decrease in imports (-4.8%) than in exports (-3.4%) in 2016 (Figure 1).Footnote 3 The United States remained Canada’s largest trading partner, with South Korea and some emerging economies playing an increasing role in Canada’s mineral trade.

Trade by Country

The United States continued to be Canada’s largest trading partner for mineral commodities, increasing its share to 55.2% of Canadian mineral exports and maintaining a 49.6% share of imports into Canada in 2016. The European Union (EU) (21.6%), China (4.8%), and Japan (3.6%) were the next most significant destinations for Canada’s mineral exports. Together these trading partners accounted for over 80% of Canada’s mineral exports. In terms of mineral commodity imports, after the United States, China (10.9%), the EU (8.3%), Mexico (5.0%), Peru (2.5%), Brazil (2.5%), and Japan (2.2%) ranked as the next most significant sources.

Canada’s share of mineral commodity exports destined for the United States experienced a steady decline between 2000 (77.1%) and 2012 (48.2%). Since 2012, this trend has reversed as the United States accounted for 50.3% of total mineral exports in 2013, growing to 55.2% in 2016. China’s share decreased for the third year in a row from 7.3% ($6.4 billion) in 2013 to 4.8% ($4.2 billion) in 2016. This decline parallels the ongoing slowdown in the growth of China’s economy and continued transition from manufacturing to domestic consumption and services, which now accounts for a larger share of the country’s Gross Domestic Product than the industrial sector.

Canada’s mineral commodity exports to emerging economies, such as India, Mexico, Indonesia, and Brazil, continue to play a significant role in Canada’s mineral trade. Mineral exports to India and Mexico have steadily increased in value over the last five years while those to Brazil have declined. Exports to Mexico totaled $1.3 billion in 2016, a 13.7% gain over 2015, led by significant increases in aluminum exports. South Korea also continued to be a key mineral export destination for Canada in 2016, where aluminum exports grew 537.4% ($309.3 million) and metallurgical coal exports climbed 38.8% ($884.2 million), increasing total mineral commodity exports to South Korea from $2.0 billion in 2015 to $2.4 billion in 2016. While the increase in the value of coal exports is partly related to rising coal prices through 2016, the overall increase in mineral exports to South Korea was also driven by the free trade agreement signed in 2015.

A diversified portfolio of destinations for Canada’s mineral commodities mitigates market concentration risks. However, Canadian producers face competition to supply growing foreign markets across the globe. Table 1 provides mineral commodity export and import values for Canada’s leading mineral trade partners in 2016.

Balance of TradeFootnote 3

Canada’s balance of trade for mineral commodities increased to $15.8 billion in 2016 from $15.3 billion in 2015. The country’s mineral commodity trade balance remains strong as Canada continued to maintain significant trade surpluses with the United States and the EU. Canada’s surplus with the United States is driven by exports in Stage 1 - mineral extraction, Stage 2 - smelting and refining, and Stage 3 - semi-fabrication while experiencing a trade deficit with the United States for Stage 4 - fabrication.

Canada also maintains trade surpluses greater than $1 billion with each of Japan, South Korea, and India. Alternatively, imports from China, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil exceeded Canada’s exports to these countries (Table 1).

Trade by Manufacturing StageFootnote 1

Traditionally, Canada runs large positive trade balances in Stage 1 - mineral extraction ($16.1 billionin 2016) and Stage 2 - smelting and refining ($21.7 billion). The trade balance in Stage 3 - semi-fabrication tends to be neutral or slightly negative (-$3.8 billion) while the balance for Stage 4 - fabrication is normally large and negative (-$18.1 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 ores, concentrates, and primary metals while importing fabricated goods. Table 2 shows Canada’s mineral trade by manufacturing stage.

Trade by Mineral Category

Metallic Products

Metallic products usually account for the largest share of Canada’s mineral commodity exports and, in 2016, they represented 80.1% of the total value (Figure 2). Metallic product exports decreased for the first time in four years from $72.7 billion in 2015 to $71.0 billion in 2016. Previously depressed metal prices saw a turnaround for some commodities in 2016, namely for gold and zinc, leading to increases in value relative to volume. In contrast, nickel saw a year-over-year decrease in value of 22.5% despite a 4.3% increase in volume. Similarly, declines in copper prices resulted in a year-over-year decline of 11.2% in export value in contrast with a volume increase of 0.5%.

Imports of metallic products continued a downward trend in 2016 (-5.1%), falling from $66.6 billion in 2015 to $63.3 billion in 2016. Gold, aluminum, iron ore, and uranium and thorium products showed increases in import volume, but decreases in value. Both volumes and values rose for silver and lead on the strength of improved prices. In contrast, copper, zinc, and nickel products experienced declines in both import volume and value.

Nonmetallic Products

Canada’s export value of nonmetallic products dropped significantly in 2016 to $12.9 billion, a 17.2% decline relative to 2015 and the lowest value since 2010. This was the result of significant declines for both potash and potassium compounds and diamonds, which were Canada’s leading nonmetallic export products by value. Potash and potassium compounds declined 31.5% from $6.9 billion in 2015 to $4.7 billion in 2016. Diamonds declined 15.8% from $2.4 billion in 2015 to $2.0 billion in 2016. Other notable declines occurred with salt and sodium compounds, sulphur and sulphur compounds, and chlorine and chlorine compounds, all of which saw declines in both volume and value. In contrast, exports of cement ($919.8 million) increased 7.7% in value and 1.4% in volume. Additionally, significant increases in value and volume were experienced for both abrasives and titanium oxide. Glass and glassware products and peat saw decreases in volume but increases in value.

The value of nonmetallic product imports decreased slightly for the first time in six years, dropping 1.5% from $13.0 billion in 2015 to $12.9 billion in 2016. Unlike previous years where results varied, many nonmetallic product groups experienced year-over-year losses in both value and volume. Notable decreases included clay and clay products, phosphate and phosphate compounds, diamonds, and graphite. Abrasives saw a decline in value with a small increase in volume. Some of these declines were offset by gains in glass and glassware products, which were up 4.8% in value to $3.8 billion. The bulk (90.6%) of the nonmetallic products import 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 increased slightly in volume (0.5%) in 2016, but saw significant gains in value (30.7%) on the strength of a near-doubling of 2016 metallurgical coal prices over 2015 prices. Exports of thermal coal (used to produce electricity) decreased 5.9% by volume while the value decreased 10.9%.

Imports of total metallurgical coal and coke products experienced a decrease in volume (-13.7%) and value (-24.5%). Similarly, imports of thermal coal saw a decrease in volume (-15.4%) and value (-10.5%).

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 2016 (Table 4) as the two provinces accounted for 49.1% and 22.1% of exports, respectively. Similarly, Ontario accounted for 61.8% and Quebec for 15.0% of imports. 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 their 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 and Yukon, and for over one-quarter from British Columbia.

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

Notes: Information in this bulletin was current as of July 14, 2017. Data are revised in February of each year for the two previous years. In February 2016, the 2014 data were revised for the final time. As a result, data may not align with previous bulletins. 

Figure 1
Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Trade, 2007-16

Figure 1 - Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Trade, 2007-16

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

Text version - Figure 1
Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Trade
($ Billions), 2007-16
Year Total
Imports
Total
Exports
Balance
of Trade
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 76.7 100.3 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

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

 

Figure 2
Value of Trade of Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Products, 2007-16

Figure 2 - Value of Trade of Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Products, 2007-16

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

Text version - Figure 2
Value of Trade of Mining and Mineral Processing Industry Products
($ Billions), 2007-16
Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Metals, domestic exports 66.3 67.1 47.3 61.4 72.8 67.5 68.0 71.8 72.7 71.0
Nonmetals, domestic exports 10.6 16.7 10.3 12.5 14.8 13.8 13.1 13.3 15.5 12.8
Coal, domestic exports 3.2 6.4 5.1 6.2 8.4 6.8 5.8 4.5 3.8 4.7
Total domestic exports 80.1 90.2 62.7 80.2 95.9 88.1 86.9 89.6 92.0 88.5
Metals, imports 52.5 57.3 45.4 55.9 65.7 63.9 61.6 66.8 66.6 63.3
Nonmetals, imports 8.4 9.4 8.1 8.9 9.8 10.3 10.9 12.0 13.0 12.9
Coal, imports 1.3 1.9 1.2 1.4 1.2 1.2 0.9 1.1 1.2 0.9
Total imports 62.2 68.7 54.7 66.1 76.7 75.5 73.4 79.9 80.9 77.0

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, 2016
Country Domestic Exports
($000)
Total Exports
($000)
Total Imports
($000)
Balance of Trade
($000)
United States 48,912,134 52,315,656 38,230,272 14,085,384
EU-28 19,185,035 19,527,631 6,379,930 13,147,701
China 4,216,700 4,262,189 8,400,695 -4,138,506
Japan 3,214,481 3,230,697 1,687,056 1,543,641
South Korea 2,418,440 2,426,721 1,142,860 1,283,861
India 1,798,794 1,810,453 797,647 1,012,806
Mexico 1,324,421 1,393,299 3,862,253 -2,468,954
Brazil 866,802 877,687 1,910,761 -1,033,074
Taiwan 670,628 676,662 1,134,570 -457,908
Hong Kong 510,960 553,041 75,191 477,850
Botswana 427,655 427,676 1,904 425,772
Indonesia 404,167 406,063 116,764 289,299
Peru 32,522 36,672 1,960,026 -1,923,354
Argentina 75,821 80,343 1,250,958 -1,170,615
Other countries 4,572,928 4,828,675 10,091,694 -5,263,019
Total Canada 88,631,488 92,853,465 77,042,581 15,810,884

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 Statge, 2016
Stage Domestic Exports
($000)
Total Exports
($000)
Total Imports
($000)
Balance of Trade
($000)
Stage 1 24,134,793 24,188,939 8,101,511 16,087,428
Stage 2 34,015,622 34,569,391 12,899,761 21,669,630
Stage 3 15,384,108 16,518,981 20,325,718 -3,806,737
Stage 4 15,096,964 17,576,153 35,715,591 -18,139,438
Total 88,631,488 92,853,465 77,042,581 15,810,884

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

 

Table 3. Value of Canadian Mineral Export Trade by Commodity, 2015 and 2016
Commodity 2015
($000)
2016
($000)
Gold 17,591,894 18,417,339
Iron and steel 13,590,528 12,862,276
Aluminum 10,496,865 10,680,607
Copper 6,871,502 6,103,832
Miscellaneous metal products 6,217,665 6,020,087
Coal and coke 3,815,643 4,749,583
Potash and potassium compounds 6,859,392 4,697,216
Nickel 5,402,613 4,187,628
Iron ore 3,590,636 3,795,973
Diamonds 2,368,658 1,994,206
Uranium and thorium 1,739,820 1,981,435
Zinc 1,741,786 1,798,270
Silver 1,734,874 1,639,529
Platinum group metals 1,228,192 1,233,422
All other minerals 8,729,575 8,470,085
Total 91,979,643 88,631,488

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

 

Table 4. Value of Canadian Mineral Trade by Jurisdiction, 2016
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 2,395,426 2,462,853 3,327,548 -864,695 79,133,581 3.0
British Columbia 11,271,656 11,335,305 8,410,135 2,925,170 39,011,167 28.9
Manitoba 1,453,882 1,460,638 2,973,277 -1,512,639 13,485,333 10.8
New Brunswick 478,097 478,329 977,610 -499,281 10,642,140 4.5
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,894,973 1,905,312 249,125 1,656,187 8,395,730 22.6
Northwest Territories 1,434,584 1,434,584 1,434,584 1,439,317 99.7
Nova Scotia 314,443 321,213 595,050 -273,837 5,228,488 6.0
Nunavut 395 720 395 11,068 3.6
Ontario 43,552,978 47,370,713 47,578,060 -207,347 205,398,882 21.2
Prince Edward Island 19,602 19,983 44,045 -24,062 1,256,197 1.6
Quebec 19,620,571 19,825,002 11,518,271 8,306,731 78,538,429 25.0
Saskatchewan 5,977,827 6,020,836 1,365,525 4,655,311 26,416,405 22.6
Yukon 217,053 217,977 3,935 214,042 220,098 98.6
Total Canada 88,631,488 92,853,465 77,042,581 15,810,884 469,176,833 18.9

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