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Capital Expenditures

Capital Expenditures Information Bulletin

(published in October 2023)

A capital expenditureFootnote 1 (CAPEX) is money spent to buy, build or upgrade assets, such as mines, machinery and equipment, that will benefit a company over an extended period of time.

Mining is a capital-intensive industry with large-scale projects that are often valued in billions of dollars and can span multiple years.

Because these assets contribute to sustaining and growing future mineral and metal production, information on capital spending can be a useful indicator of how industry views future market demand in relation to present supply capacity.

Find out about Canada’s minerals sector CAPEX and its spending intentions:


In 2022, CAPEX in Canada’s minerals sectorFootnote 2 increased sharply by 15% to $17.7 billion. This increase occurred amid inflation rates soaring to the highest levels in decades (Figure 1) and base metal prices decreasing because of global economic uncertainties. The rising cost of materials and equipment has inflated expenses associated with establishing and expanding operations within the minerals sector.

The 2023 spending intentions signal continued growth in CAPEX, projected to rise by 21% to $21.4 billion. This growth is attributed primarily to major investments in potash mining but is also reacting to the higher costs of conducting business and rising inflationary pressures.

Trends in CAPEX for the minerals sector are determined largely by those of the upstream mining industry, which is by far the most capital-intensive industry within the minerals sector, as shown in Figure 2.

Demand for critical minerals is anticipated to grow rapidly to meet the needs of the clean energy transition. According to the International Energy Agency, a mid-century zero-carbon world will require a six-fold increase in the production of critical minerals by 2030.

Concurrently, the World Bank Group concluded that the production of graphite, lithium and cobalt could increase by nearly 500% by 2050 to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies. The surge in demand will continue to raise critical mineral prices and require mining companies to make substantial investments to support the transition to clean energy.

Figure 1. Relationship between capital expenditures and inflation, 2006–2022

Figure 1. Relationship between capital expenditures and inflation, 2006–2022
Text version — Figure 1

This line graph shows the trend in capital expenditures in the minerals sector in constant and current dollars in relation to the evolution of the inflation rate. The graph illustrates the impact of inflation on capital expenditures.


Figure 2. Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector, 2022 (p)

Figure 2. Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector, 2022 (p)
Text version — Figure 2
Figure 2. Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector ($ millions), 2022 (p)
Sector Value
Mining 13,538.6
   Metals 9,421.1
         Gold-silver 5,381.3
         Iron ore 1,170.9
         Nickel-copper 1,763.6
         Copper-zinc 681.7
         Other metals 175.2
   Coal and non-metals 3,682.9
         Potash 2,509.9
         Other non-metals (including coal) 527.1
         Sand, gravel and clay 220.3
         Stone 124.9
   Support activities 434.7
Processing and manufacturing 4,187.5
   Primary metal processing 2,580.9
   Metal products manufacturing 965.0
   Non-metal products manufacturing 641.6
Minerals sector 17,726.1

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada
B = billion, p = preliminary expenditures


Capital expenditures in the upstream mining industry

In 2022, CAPEX in Canada’s mining industry increased by 14% to $13.5 billion. Its CAPEX intentions signal notable growth in 2023, increasing by 21% to $16.4 billion.

Mineral and metal prices reflect market demand and the supply balance or instability and are a leading indicator of CAPEX in the mining industry, as shown in Figure 3. Companies tend to preserve capital when market conditions are unfavourable and financing options are limited.

Conversely, firms tend to accelerate investment plans when the outlook for demand and prices improves to grow production capacity and seize the opportunity to enhance their cash flow and profitability.

Figure 3. Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector and with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 2013–2023

Figure 3. Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector and with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 2013–2023
Text version — Figure 3
Figure 3. Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector and with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 2013–2023
Year Metal ore mining Coal and non-metallic mineral mining Metals and minerals price index
(2013 = 100)*
2013 9.2 5.9 100.0
2014 5.3 5.8 84.3
2015 4.9 5.3 79.8
2016 5.1 4.5 70.7
2017 5.4 3.6 68.7
2018 6.7 3.3 74.1
2019 6.8 4.1 77.5
2020 6.3 3.1 79.6
2021 8.5 2.9 87.4
2022 (p) 9.4 3.7 109.9
2023 (i) 10.4 5.4 121.4

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Bank of Canada, Statistics Canada.
p = preliminary expenditures, i = spending intentions.
*The metals and minerals price index is presented with a one-year lag.


After a record high of $16.9 billion in 2012, capital spending in the mining industry declined every year for the next five years, reaching a 10-year low of $9.0 billion in 2017. It recovered over the next two years before declining during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Since 2021, the mining industry CAPEX has returned to its pre-pandemic growth trend (Figure 3).

The 2012 peak was driven largely by the rapid growth in demand in China and other emerging economies. Supply eventually caught up with demand, causing mineral and metal prices and CAPEX to decrease. Commodity prices rose again after 2016, albeit much more gradually than earlier in the decade, and mining industry CAPEX also rose until 2019.

In 2020, the price of many minerals and metals dropped quickly at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated response measures, which constrained global consumption. Prices later recovered and surpassed pre-pandemic levels as demand initially returned in China and pandemic-induced supply constraints plagued parts of the global production.

In early 2022, the prices of several metals reached record high levels after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is a major producer of precious, base and industrial metals, and it trades significant volumes of metals with Europe and Asia. Supply chain disruptions, economic sanctions, and retaliatory measures contributed to price increases for several commodities, including palladium, nickel, aluminum and potash.

The clean energy transition is anticipated to continue to be a key driver of increased demand for a host of critical minerals, particularly those used in electric vehicle batteries, such as cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel.

Learn about major natural resource projects currently under construction or planned within the next 10 years.

Capital expenditures in the metals, non-metals and coal mining subsectors

In 2022, CAPEX in the metal mining subsector was up by 11% to $9.4 billion, with varied results across individual metals. The gold and silver ore mining component, which accounted for 57% of this subsector in 2022, registered a substantial increase of 37% to $5.4 billion, while the iron ore mining component (12% of the subsector) declined 34% to $1.2 billion.

Other noteworthy changes were observed for:

  • nickel-copper ore mining (19% of the subsector), which rose by 8% to $1.8 billion
  • copper-zinc ore mining (7% of the subsector), which decreased by 5% to $682 million

Spending intentions for 2023 indicate a 10% increase to $10.4 billion in expenditures for the metal mining subsector. Copper-zinc ore mining is expected to see a 48% increase to $1.0 billion. Nickel-copper ore mining, iron ore mining, and gold and silver ore mining are expected to see increases of 11%, 10%, and 6%, respectively.

In 2022, CAPEX in the coal and non-metallic mining subsector increased by 25% to $3.7 billion, driven primarily by investments in potash mining.

  • Potash mining, which accounted for 68% of CAPEX in this subsector in 2022, increased by 36% to $2.5 billion. In 2021, the BHP mining company approved development of the $7.5 billion Jansen Stage 1 potash project in Saskatchewan. Production is anticipated to start in late 2026.
  • Stone mining and quarrying decreased by 14% to $125 million.
  • The mining and quarrying of sand, gravel, clay, and ceramic and refractory minerals increased by 2% to $220 million.

Coal and non-metallic mining CAPEX are expected to increase significantly in 2023 by 48% to $5.4 billion, led again by the potash mining industry (up by 69% to $4.2 billion). Canada is the leading global producer of potash.

Capital expenditures in the downstream mineral-processing industries

In 2022, CAPEX in Canada’s downstream mineral-processing industriesFootnote 2 increased by 18% to $4.2 billion.

Primary metal manufacturing accounted for 62% of this subsector in 2022 and increased 52% to $2.6 billion. This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in smelting and refining ferrous and non-ferrous (i.e. aluminum, copper, nickel and gold) metals.

CAPEX in the two other downstream subsectors, fabricated metal product manufacturing and non-metallic mineral product manufacturing, declined by 10% and 18%, respectively.

Spending intentions for 2023 in the downstream mineral-processing industries point to another 18% increase in CAPEX to $5.0 billion. The significant growth is led by an increase in both the primary metal manufacturing subsector (+20%) and the fabricated metal product manufacturing subsector (+32%). These subsectors comprise establishments primarily engaged in forging, stamping, forming, turning, and joining processes that produce ferrous and non-ferrous metal products.

Spending breakdown by province and territory

CAPEX across provinces and territories (Figure 4) can experience volatility from year to year based on the number of active and developing mines. Jurisdictions with fewer mines tend to experience greater volatility because constructing a single mine can consume a significant portion of overall spending.

CAPEX is concentrated in some of Canada’s largest mining jurisdictionsFootnote 3 and, in 2022, 72% of the mining industry’s CAPEX was in Ontario (31%), Saskatchewan (21%), and Quebec (19%).

High levels of CAPEX in Saskatchewan are associated with the potash mining industry because all of Canada’s potash mines are in that province.

Year-over-year changes in mining sector CAPEX in 2022 varied across provinces and territories. Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta had significant increases of 39%, 36%, and 19%, respectively. Quebec and British Columbia declined by 3% and 7%, respectively. Newfoundland and Labrador had a slight increase of 1%.

Figure 4. Mining industry capital expenditures, by jurisdiction (subject to data availability), 2021–2023

Figure 4. Mining industry capital expenditures, by jurisdiction (subject to data availability), 2021–2023
Text version — Figure 4
Figure 4. Mining industry capital expenditures, by jurisdiction ($ millions), 2021–2023
Province / Territory 2021 2022 (p) 2023 (i)
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,298.4 1,307.6 1,599.0
Prince Edward Island x x x
Nova Scotia x x x
New Brunswick x x x
Quebec 2,587.8 2,512.0 2,653.6
Ontario 2,961.2 4,105.1 3,952.2
Manitoba x 231.4 345.4
Saskatchewan 2,044.3 2,782.2 4,481.8
Alberta 96.5 114.5 108.7
British Columbia 1,186.3 1,103.4 1,535.4
Yukon x 153.9 94.0
Northwest Territories x x x
Nunavut x x 830.7

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada.
p = preliminary expenditures, i = spending intentions, x = confidential.


Spending intentions for 2023 reveal that most jurisdictions expect to increase their capital spending, led by Saskatchewan (+61%), Manitoba (+49%), British Columbia (+39%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+22%), and Quebec (+6%). Declining CAPEX is forecasted for Ontario (-4%), Alberta (-5%), and Yukon (-39%).

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