What Natural Resources Does Canada Have in Abundance?
Oil, natural gas, minerals, lumber, water... you name it, chances are Canada has it. After all, it is the second largest country in the world with an incredibly diverse array of landscapes and geology from coast-to-coast.
In Canada, natural resources such as oil, potash, uranium and wood are extracted to some of the highest environmental and labour standards in the world. Such operations also bring massive benefits to governments of all levels in all provinces in the form of taxes and royalties, as well as millions of families from coast to coast.
So, what are the natural resources that Canada has in abundance? Here's a breakdown...
Oil in Canada
Oil is one of the most abundant natural resources found in Canada. With recoverable reserves estimated at more than 173 billion barrels, the nation has the third largest oil reserves in the world. Canada is the world's fourth largest oil exporter and many experts would agree that national prosperity is closely intertwined with oil exports.
While the oil industry is active across the country, almost all activity is found in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Alberta is where a majority of oil is produced in Canada - more than 80 per cent - because the province is home to the oil sands. Just 20 per cent of the 166 billion+ barrels in the oil sands is extractable via surfance mining, while in-situ (in place, or "in the ground") methods must be used for the remaining 80 per cent for reserves that are too deep (>~75 metres).
Saskatchewan also has billions more barrels of reserves in the ground, and is responsible for about 13 per cent of Canada's oil production. Meanwhile, recent figures show there's a potential 25 billion barrels north and east off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. In-situ methods are used in both of these provinces.
Canadian Oil: Quick Facts
- 170+ billion barrels of recoverable reserves - 3rd largest in the world
- Additional 250+ billion barrels could potentially be recovered with new technology and favourable economic conditions
- Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador are major producers
- Canada currently produces over 4 million barrels per day
- A large majority of oil (>99%) is currently sold to the United States
Natural Gas in Canada
Natural gas is another natural resource in abundance in Canada. As the world's 4th largest producer and 5th largest exporter, it is estimated that there is about 1,225 trillion cubic feet of natural gas potential in the country.
Currently, natural gas is produced in almost all provinces and territories: Alberta, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Ontario and Yukon. Today, a majority of natural gas production comes from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) which spans from northwest to southeast across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
About one third of Canada's energy needs are currently met by natural gas. About 20 per cent of gas demand in the United States is also met by Canada. As one of the cleanest burning fossil fuels, it's also in high demand around the world with the IEA expecting demand for natural gas to grow 45 per cent by 2040.
Plans to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from British Columbia and Nova Scotia are currently in motion. These projects, if they get built, will help displace coal power plants in developing parts of the world and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by tens, if not hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year.
Canadian Natural Gas: Quick Facts
- An estimated 1,225 trillion cubic feet of natural gas potential
- 4th largest natural gas producer in the world
- 5th largest natural gas exporter in the world
- At current consumption levels, Canada could provide natural gas to consumers for 300 years
- Major LNG projects could reduce emissions by tens, if not hundreds of millions of CO2 equivalent in Asia
Potash in Canada
Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash (potassium oxide equivalent). It also has the world's largest potash reserves, with about a quarter of the world's total reserves (23.3 per cent) at more than 1 billion tonnes.
In 2016, Canada produced nearly 30 per cent of the world's total potash about 95 per cent of it is exported. In 2017, total potash production in Canada increased by 2.4 million tonnes to 20.3 million tonnes. A large majority of potash mines are found in Saskatchewan, with others recently closing in New Brunswick.
A majority of potash production is used to make fertilizer. However, it has many other uses such as in the manufacturing of potassium-bearing chemicals such as water pharmaceuticals, detergents and ceramics.
Canadian Potash: Quick Facts
- With 23.3 per cent of total world reserves, Canada has the largest reserves of potash across the globe
- Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash
- 95 per cent of potash mined in Canada is exported to more than 50 countries around the world
- Nearly all potash resources and mines are found in southern Saskatchewan
Uranium in Canada
Another natural resource found in abundance in Canada is uranium. With the 4th largest uranium reserves in the world, Canada is the 2nd largest producer of uranium resources and is responsible for about 1/5th of total world production up until 2014.
Saskatchewan in particular is home to the vast majority of uranium mines in Canada. The McArthur River and Cigar Lake mines in the northern part of the province are two of the world's largest uranium mines relative to production. These mines have some of the highest quality in the world, with concentrations anywhere from 10 to 100 times more than the global average.
Canada isn't just a top producer of uranium, but it is also a top performer when it comes to environmental regulation. All of Saskatchewan's mines have international ISO 14001 environmental certification.
Canadian Uranium: Quick Facts
- 2nd largest producer of uranium in the world
- 4th largest uranium reserves in the world
- Canada produced about 20 per cent of total world uranium production up until 2014
- Home to the highest grade and largest uranium mines you'll find across the globe
- McArthur River mine has concentrations of uranium 10 to 100 times higher than the world average
Iron Ore in Canada
Iron Ore is another natural resource found in abundance in Canada. With 6 billion tonnes, Canada has the 7th largest crude iron ore reserves in the world and accounted for about 2.2 per cent of world production in 2017 - at 49 million tonnes.
Quebec (51 per cent), Newfoundland and Labrador (44 per cent) and Nunavut (5 per cent) account for all of Canada's production of iron ore. Exports are chiefly sent to the United States, Germany and other European nations.
Iron ore is an essential material in steel production. Today, about 98 per cent of iron ore is used in steel production. The remaining 2 per cent is used in paints, plastics, cosmetics, fertilizer, magnets, auto parts and catalysts to name a few.
Canadian Iron Ore: Quick Facts
- 7th largest crude iron ore reserved in the world
- 49 million tonnes produced in 2017 - 2.2 per cent of world production
- All iron ore activity is found in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut
- Exports are sent to the United States, Germany and many other nations
Coal in Canada
Canada may not have the largest coal reserves, but it happens to be the third largest global exporter of metallurgical coal. With the world's 16th largest reserves, Canada produced 61 million tonnes of coal in 2017 and exported more than half of it.
A majority of coal reserves in Canada are found in British Columbia and Alberta. The Port of Vancouver on Canada's west coast happens to be North America's single largest exporter of coal, with 36.8 million tonnes of coal exports in 2017 alone.
In British Columbia, the coal industry adds tens of billions in economic activity to the province per annum and is an essential part of its largely natural-resource based economy.
Canadian Coal: Quick Facts
- 3rd largest exporter of metallurgical coal in the world
- 16th largest coal reserves in the world
- Over a quarter of coal exported in Vancouver is from the United States
Softwood Lumber in Canada
Canada is the world's top exporter of softwood lumber and newsprint (by value). In 2017, the forest sector contributed $24.6 billion to the national GDP and was responsible for nearly 210,000 direct jobs across the nation, with about 11,500 of those employees identifying as Indigenous.
A majority of forest industry jobs are found in Quebec and Ontario (52 per cent). About 39 per cent are found in the western provinces (British Columbia and Alberta, but mostly B.C.) and 9 per cent exist in the Atlantic provinces.
With about 30 per cent of the world's forest area and 40 per cent of the world's forests that are certified as being sustainably managed, Canada is and will be a major producer of softwood lumber and related products for decades to come.
Canadian Softwood Lumber: Quick Facts
- Home to 30 per cent of the world's forest area
- Home to 40 per cent of the world's certified sustainably managed forests
- $24.6 billion contribution by forestry sector to national GDP in 2017
- Nearly 210,000 direct jobs across the nation
- Employs people in rural communities including about 11,500 First Nations
- Majority of forestry sector in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec
Water in Canada
Water may just be the most important natural resource there is. It's essential for life on our planet, and fortunately it is yet another resource that Canada has in abundance.
Canada is home to about 20 per cent of the 1,386 billion km2 of fresh water in the world. While only 7 per cent of this is renewable, it's still a huge number.
Learn more about Canada's water resources below... some of the numbers truly are amazing!
Canada also has massive rare mineral reserves including diamond and platinum group metals.
Stay tuned for updates on nickel, copper, platinum, diamonds, gold and other minerals that Canada has in abundance!
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