Updated June 2023
Crude oil, natural gas, minerals, metals, lumber, seafood, wind, 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 world's highest environmental and labour standards. These extractive industries provide massive benefits to governments across the country through taxes and royalties while supporting millions of families through jobs and a variety of other opportunities.
So then, what are the natural resources that Canada has in abundance? Here is a breakdown of what resources you'll find across Canada's 13 provinces and territories. Also see:
- What Natural Resources Does PEI Have?
- What Natural Resources Does Nova Scotia Have?
- What Natural Resources Does New Brunswick Have?
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 country is home to the third-largest proven 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 petroleum exports.
While the oil industry is active across the country, almost all production comes from the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Alberta is where most oil is produced in Canada – about 80% - because of the oil sands. Just 20% of the 166 billion+ barrels in the oil sands is extractable via surface mining, while in-situ (in place, or "in the ground") methods must be used for the remaining 80% of reserves that are too deep (>~75 metres).
Saskatchewan also has billions more barrels of reserves in the ground and is responsible for about 13% of Canada's oil production. Meanwhile, billions of more barrels – discovered and undiscovered – are found 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 - third-largest in the world
- Additional 250+ billion barrels could potentially be discovered with new technology and favourable economic conditions
- Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador are major oil producers in Canada
- Canada currently produces over 4 million barrels per day
- Almost all Canadian oil is currently sold to the United States (more than 95% annually)
Natural Gas in Canada
Natural gas is another natural resource found in abundance in Canada. As the world's fifth-largest producer and sixth-largest exporter, it is estimated that there is 1,373 trillion cubic feet of natural gas potential in the country.
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 the Yukon in varying quantities. Today, most of natural gas production comes from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) which spans from northwest to southeast across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Hence, the three provinces account for more than 99% of Canada's total natural gas production.
Canada remains heavily reliant on natural gas, accounting for roughly one-third of the country's energy needs. About one-tenth of gas demand in the United States is also met by Canada. As one of the cleanest burning fossil fuels, it is also in high demand worldwide with global consumption of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projected to expand rapidly over the next few decades.
Plans to export LNG from British Columbia are currently in motion. If they get built, these projects will help displace coal power plants in developing parts of the world and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, with many analyses showing significant net reductions that will help fight climate change.
Canadian Natural Gas: Quick Facts
- An estimated 1,373 trillion cubic feet of natural gas potential
- 5th largest natural gas producer in the world
- 6th largest natural gas exporter in the world
- At current consumption levels, Canada could provide natural gas to consumers for 300 years
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 third of total reserves (31.1%) at 1.1 billion tonnes.
Canada, Russia and Belarus accounted for approximately 70% of world potash production in 2021. That year, Canada produced a staggering 22.5 million tonnes of potash, an increase of 129,000 tonnes year-over-year. Almost all potash mines are found in Saskatchewan, with others shutting down 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 like water pharmaceuticals, detergents and ceramics.
Canadian Potash: Quick Facts
- With 31.3% of world reserves, Canada has the largest reserves of potash across the globe
- Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash
- 95% 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. Home to the fourth-largest uranium reserves in the world, Canada is the second-largest producer of uranium, responsible for 15% of world production in 2022.
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 uranium 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 regulations. All of Saskatchewan's mines have international ISO 14001 environmental certification.
Canadian Uranium: Quick Facts
- Second-largest producer of uranium in the world, with 15% of global production in 2022 totalling 7,351 tonnes
- World's largest deposits of high-grade uranium with grades of up to 20% uranium, 100x greater than the global average
- Canada produced about 20% of total world uranium production up until 2014
- Nearly 85% of Canada's uranium production is exported, with the remainder used to fuel CANDU reactors in Canada
- Home to the highest grade and largest uranium mines across the globe
- McArthur River mine has concentrations of uranium 10 to 100 times higher than the global average
Diamonds in Canada
Diamonds are also found in abundance in Canada, mostly in the northern territories. Today, just 20% of global diamond production (by weight) is used for jewellery, with the other 80% applied in various industrial and research technologies.
In 2019, Canada was the world's third-largest producer of rough diamonds by value, accounting for 12.5% of global production. It was also the third-largest producer by volume, accounting for 13.5% of world production.
Canada's total primary diamond exports were valued at $2.21 billion, showing just how important this industry especially for rural communities involved in its extraction from the earth.
Diamonds in Canada: Quick Facts
- Canada was the third-largest producer of rough diamonds in 2019 by both weight and value, accounting for 12.5% of global production
- Canada produced 18.6 million carats of rough diamonds in 2019, valued at $2.25 billion
- Four out of the five active diamond mines in Canada saw a drop in production volume in 2019
- Quebec's Renard diamond mine was the only one that saw a production increase in 2019
- Russia, Botswana, Canada, Congo and Australia were the top 5 global diamond producers in 2019, accounting for nearly three-quarters of global production
Gold in Canada
Canada is a global leader in the extraction and production of gold, a critically important commodity used in various electrical and technological applications.
Gold is Canada's most valuable mined commodity, with a production value of $13.7 billion in 2021. The mineral is mined in ten different provinces and territories across Canada, with Ontario and Quebec accounting for 70% of production that same year.
Globally, Canada was the fourth-largest gold producer in 2021, accounting for 7.2% of world production. The country was also home to the seventh-largest gold reserves as of 2021.
Gold in Canada: Quick Facts
- Canada mined $13.7 billion of gold in 2021, making it the most valuable mined substance in the country
- Canada is the fourth-largest gold producer globally and sits on the seventh-largest reserves
- Gold is used in a variety of applications, including jewellery, technology, investments, banking and more
- Quebec and Ontario account for the lion’s share of gold production in Canada (71%)
Iron Ore in Canada
Iron Ore is another natural resource found in abundance in Canada. With six billion tonnes, Canada had the sixth-largest crude iron ore reserves in the world in 2021, accounting for 3.3% of known global reserves.
Canada was the ninth-largest producer of iron ore in 2021, producing 57 million tonnes and accounting for 2.3% globally. 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% of iron ore is used in steel production. The remaining 2% is used in paints, plastics, cosmetics, fertilizer, magnets, auto parts and catalysts to name a few.
In 2021, Canada imported more semi-finished steel products than it exported, with imports of 10 million tonnes and exports of 6.8 million tonnes.
Canadian Iron Ore: Quick Facts
- Sixth-largest crude iron ore reserved in the world
- 8 million tonnes produced in 2021, valued at $10.1 billion compared to 55.1 million tonnes values at $7.6 billion in 2020
- 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 fourth-largest global exporter of metallurgical coal (used for steel making) and the sixteenth-largest producer in 2021. With the world's sixteenth-largest reserves, Canada produced 48 million tonnes of coal in 2021 and exported roughly three-fifths of that.
Most coal reserves in Canada are found in British Columbia and Alberta. In B.C., the coal industry generates billions of dollars in economic activity for the province annually and is an essential part of its largely natural-resource-based economy.
The Port of Vancouver on Canada's west coast happens to be North America's single largest coal exporter, with 36.8 million tonnes of coal exports in 2017 alone. Canada's oil exports were valued at $7.7 billion in 2021, with China (46%), South Korea (15%), Japan (15%), India (6%) and the U.S. (3%) being the largest buyers.
Canadian Coal: Quick Facts
- Fourth-largest exporter of metallurgical coal in the world
- Sixteenth-largest coal reserves in the world
- Most of Canada's coal exports were sent to China, South Korea, Japan, India and the U.S. in 2021
Softwood Lumber in Canada
Canada is one of the world's top exporters of forestry products, which makes sense given it is home to the third-largest forested cover seen worldwide. In 2021, the forest sector contributed $34.8 billion to the national economy (gross domestic product) and was responsible for nearly 210,000 direct jobs across the nation with about 11,500 employees identifying as Indigenous.
Most forest industry jobs are found in Quebec and Ontario (52%). About 39% exist in the Western provinces (British Columbia and Alberta, but mostly B.C.) while another 9% are in the Atlantic provinces.
With about 30% of the world's forest area and 40% of the world's forests certified as being sustainably managed, Canada is and will be a major producer of softwood lumber and related products for decades to come.
Canadian Lumber: Quick Facts
- Home to 30% of the world's forest area
- Home to 40% of the world's certified sustainably managed forests
- $34.8 billion contribution by the forestry sector to the national economy in 2021
- Supports 206,000 direct jobs across the nation
- Canada is a top ten exporter of several forestry products such as newspaper, softwood and certain pulps
- Employs people in rural communities including about 11,500 First Nations
- Majority of forestry sector in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec
Water in Canada
Map: Chris Brackley / Canadian Geographic
Water may just be the most important natural resource there is. It is essential for life on our planet, and fortunately, it is yet another resource that Canada has in abundance.
Canada is home to about 20% of the 1,386 billion km2 of fresh water in the world. And while only 7% of Canada's freshwater supply is deemed "renewable," this is still a massive number for a country with around half a per cent of the world's population.
Today, Canada remains committed to responsibly managing its water resources through several programs taken on by municipal, provincial and federal governments from coast to coast.
Water in Canada: Quick Facts
- Approximately 9% of Canada's land area is covered by freshwater
- The Great Lakes cover more than 243,000 km2 and hold an estimated six quadrillion gallons of water – about one-fifth of the world's water supply
- Canada is home to over 31,000 lakes larger than three km2 in surface area
- Canada has about 20% of the world's total freshwater supply, but only 7% of that is considered "renewable"
- Rivers in Canada discharge freshwater at 105,000 cubic metres per second, equivalent to roughly 42 Olympic-sized swimming pools
Stay tuned for updates on nickel, copper, platinum, rare earths, and other natural resources that Canada has in abundance!
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After all, all these natural resources are found in abundance in Canada, and we produce them to some of the highest environmental standards on the planet. We should be proud!
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