Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary


NAICS 2121; 2122; 2123

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in mining or preparing metallic and non-metallic minerals. It is composed of three segments: coal mining (6% of total production in 2016); metal ore mining (78%); and non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying (16%). The industry exports about two-thirds of its production, mainly to the United Kingdom (32% of exports in 2016), the United States (22%), China (7%) and Japan (7%). It employed 79,200 workers in 2016, with 54% in metal ore mining, 28% in non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying, 11% in coal mining and 7% that are not associated to any particular segment. Employment is mostly concentrated in Ontario (22%), Quebec (22%), British Columbia (21%) and Saskatchewan (16%), and the workforce is primarily composed of men (86%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Underground production and development miners (8231)
  • Supervisors, mining and quarrying (8221)
  • Heavy-duty equipment mechanics (7312)
  • Underground mine service and support workers (8411)
  • Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics (7311)
  • Transport truck drivers (7511)
  • Managers in natural resources production and fishing (0811)
  • Industrial electricians (7242)
  • Mine labourers (8614)
  • Geological and mineral technologists and technicians (2212)
  • Geoscientists and oceanographers (2113)
  • Mining engineers (2143)
  • Geological engineers (2144)

As a price taker on the global marketplace, the Canadian mining industry is very sensitive to world economic conditions and price fluctuations. The global recession of 2008-2009 resulted in a dramatic fall in demand and prices of most metals and minerals. In Canada, a large number of mining companies closed or saw temporary production cuts in order to bring supply into balance with demand. In 2009, the capacity utilization rate dropped to 55% and real GDP fell by 27%, reaching its lowest level since the mid-1990s. Production increased back in the following years as demand for commodities from the emerging markets and the U.S. economy picked up, propelling the prices of many metals and minerals. It took five years, however, for the industry’s output to fully recover from pre-recession levels. By 2015, the commodity boom came to a halt as China, which consumes roughly half of the global production of metals, began slowing its rate of industrialization, leading to weaker demand. While mining companies had made substantial investments on the expectation that prices would remain elevated, new projects were simply not economically viable given the low-price environment. Prices volatility affected revenues and profits, but the volume of production continued to grow. The resulting pace of growth in real GDP averaged 1.0% annually over the period 2007-2016. In comparison, employment growth averaged 2.1% per year, with a large part of the gains recorded in 2008. After falling in 2009 and 2010, employment fully recovered in 2011 and grew marginally thereafter.

Weaker global economic growth and the corresponding slowdown in Chinese demand, combined with 10 years of global investment in developing new mine production, have resulted in a situation where supply has caught up with demand. Following the correction in prices and production, a more optimistic outlook is expected for the Canadian mining industry over the projection period, supported by a strengthening in global demand and soft growth in global supply. While they are not projected to return to the levels reached in 2011, prices have been increasing over the past year and this is expected to bring large mining projects into operation across the country. In addition to increased production capacity in metal mining (such as gold, copper, nickel, zinc, silver, lead, iron ore, etc.), prospects in non-metallic mineral mining are promising, largely attributable to steady growth in the production of potash which is used as a fertilizer. As the world’s largest producer of potash, Canada’s mining industry is expected to benefit from the fact that global population will grow faster than the volume of cleared land suitable for agriculture, pushing up demand for higher crop yields. There are several large-scale potash projects under way in Saskatchewan that will add capacity to existing mines. Canada also holds large reserves of sand, gravel and stone, with Ontario and Alberta being the largest producers. The demand for such minerals is expected to be driven by construction activity in North America. Finally, new diamond mines in Quebec and Saskatchewan are set to begin production over the next few years, adding to the existing production capacity in Northwest Territories and Ontario. Real GDP in the mining industry is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 2.0% from 2017 to 2026, a notable acceleration from the previous ten years. In contrast, employment growth is expected to slow significantly, averaging 0.8% per year. Softer production growth in the last five years of the projection and a turnaround in productivity are the main factors behind the slowdown in employment growth. Rapid technological developments, such as GPS surveying, three-dimensional data maps, airborne technologies, remote-operated equipment, automated loading and transportation systems, and robotics and seismic mapping, are expected to straighten productivity and reverse the negative pace of growth recorded during the period 2007-2016.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Mining

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Mining. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Mining, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 1.0 2.1
2017-2026 2.0 0.8

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

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