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Capital Expenditures

Capital Expenditures Information Bulletin

(published in August 2022)

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.

Information on capital spending is one of the useful indicators of broad economic conditions that can provide an outlook on how management views future market demands in relation to their company’s present productive capacity.

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


CAPEX in Canada’s minerals sectorFootnote 2 increased sharply by 11% to $14.4 billion in 2021. During that year, mineral and metal prices substantially increased because of supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and an anticipated increase in demand due to the green energy transition.

Spending intentions for 2022 point to further growth of CAPEX, with a 17% increase to $16.8 billion. This bullish trend is concurrent with a sustained rise in commodity prices, which have been further propelled in the first half of 2022 by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Increased spending is likely also covering the higher costs of doing business and rising inflationary pressures.

Trends in CAPEX for the minerals sector are largely determined by those of the upstream mining industry, which is by far the most capital-intensive industry within the minerals sector, as shown in Figure 1.

Looking forward, demand for critical minerals is anticipated to grow rapidly in order 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. At the same time, the World Bank Group concluded that the production of minerals such as 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 exercise upward pressure on critical mineral prices, while also requiring that mining companies make substantial investments in order to support the transition to clean energy.

Figure 1: Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector, 2021 (p)

Figure 1: Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector, 2021 (p)
Text version — Figure 1
Figure 1: Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector ($ millions), 2021 (p)
Sector Value
 Mining 11,099.3
             Metals 7,902.4
                         Gold-silver 3,722.7
                         Iron ore 1,588.4
                         Nickel-copper 1,568.0
                         Copper-zinc 668.0
                         Other metals 355.3
             Coal and non-metals 2,935.4
                         Potash 1,901.1
                         Other non-metals (including coal) 760.1
                         Sand, gravel and clay 161.3
                         Stone 112.9
             Support activities 261.5
 Processing and manufacturing 3,262.3
             Primary metal processing 1,761.2
             Metal products manufacturing 892.0
             Non-metal products manufacturing 609.1
Minerals sector 14,361.6

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


Capital expenditures in the upstream mining industry

In 2021, CAPEX in Canada’s mining industry increased by 14% to $10.8 billion. This marked a notable trend reversal from the 13% decline that was recorded the previous year, when significant challenges were imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the capital-intensive construction phase at several gold projects was completed.

Mining projects are large-scale operations. They have extended lead times and entail a sizeable upfront investment in machinery, equipment, infrastructure and site preparation that can extend over multiple years. One or more large mine development projects moving from the capital-intensive construction stage to the production stage can affect industry-wide CAPEX trends.

CAPEX intentions for the mining industry signal further notable growth in 2022, increasing by 17% to $12.7 billion.

As shown in Figure 2, mineral and metal prices are a leading indicator of CAPEX in the mining industry. Companies tend to preserve capital when market conditions are unfavourable and financing options are limited. However, firms tend to accelerate investment plans when the outlook for demand and prices improves in order to grow production capacity and seize the opportunity to enhance their cash flow and profitability.

Figure 2: Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector and with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 2012–22

Figure 2: Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector and with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 2012–22
Text version — Figure 2
Figure 2: Minerals sector capital expenditures, by subsector and with respect to the metals and minerals price index, 2012–22
Year Metal
2012 11.0 5.9 100.0
2013 9.2 5.9 98.4
2014 5.3 5.8 83.0
2015 4.9 5.3 78.5
2016 5.1 4.5 69.6
2017 5.4 3.6 67.7
2018 6.7 3.3 72.9
2019 6.8 4.1 76.4
2020 6.3 3.1 78.4
2021 (p) 7.9 2.9 84.8
2022 (i) 9.0 3.7 98.6

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.


Capital spending in the mining industry reached a record high of $16.9 billion in 2012 (Figure 2), then declined to $9.0 billion in 2017 then recovered over the next two years before experiencing a dip during the pandemic in 2020. Since 2021, the mining industry CAPEX has returned to its pre-pandemic growth pace.

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

In 2020, the price of many minerals and metals quickly dropped with the onset 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 global production.

In early 2022, several metal prices hit record levels subsequent to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a major producer of precious, base and industrial metals and trades significant volumes of metals with Europe and Asia. Supply chain disruptions, economic sanctions and retaliatory measures contributed to a rise in prices for a number of commodities, including palladium, nickel, aluminum and potash.

Demand related to the clean energy transition is anticipated to continue to place upward pressure on a host of critical minerals.

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 2021, CAPEX in the metal mining subsector was up by 25% to $7.9 billion because of increases in most of its components. The iron ore mining component registered the largest increase, rising by 121% to $1.6 billion. Other noteworthy components include the following:

  • Gold mining, which accounts for 47% of this subsector, rose by 20% to $3.7 billion
  • Copper-zinc mining increased by 13% to $668 million
  • Nickel-copper mining recorded a 3% increase to $1.6 billion

Spending intentions for 2022 indicate a further 14% increase to $9.0 billion in expenditures for the metals subsector that will be led by a 28% increase for gold mining to $4.8 billion.

In 2021, CAPEX in the coal and non-metallic mining subsector declined by 7% to $2.9 billion. Decreases were registered across most of its components:

  • Potash mining, which accounts for 65% of CAPEX in this subsector, fell by 3% to $1.9 billion
  • Stone mining and quarrying contracted by 14% to $113 million
  • Sand, gravel, clay, and ceramic and refractory minerals mining and quarrying experienced a 9% decline to $161 million

Coal and non-metallic mining CAPEX is anticipated to recover in 2022, with an increase of 25% to $3.6 billion that will be led by the potash mining industry (up by 39% to $2.6 billion). Canada is the leading global producer of potash, followed by Russia and Belarus. Canadian producers are increasing investments and production capacity in an effort to respond to the global demand from countries looking for alternative sources of supply in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Capital expenditures in the downstream mineral-processing industries

In 2021, CAPEX in Canada’s downstream mineral-processing industriesFootnote 2 declined by 2% to $3.3 billion.

The fabricated metal product manufacturing subindustry accounted for the largest portion of the year-over-year decline in 2021, going from $920 million to $892 million. This subindustry is comprised of establishments primarily engaged in forging, stamping, forming, turning and joining processes that produce ferrous and non-ferrous metal products.

CAPEX in the two other downstream subindustries, primary metal manufacturing and non-metallic mineral product manufacturing, declined only slightly by 1% and 3%, respectively.

Spending intentions for 2022 in the downstream mineral-processing industries point to a notable 17% increase in CAPEX to $3.8 billion. The significant growth is led by an increase in the primary metal manufacturing subindustry (+26%), which is comprised of establishments engaged in melting and refining ferrous and non-ferrous (i.e., aluminum, copper, nickel and gold) metals. The non-metallic mineral product manufacturing and fabricated metal product manufacturing subindustries are also anticipated to increase their investments by 7% and 8%, respectively.

Spending breakdown by province and territoryFootnote 3

CAPEX across provinces and territories (Figure 3) can experience considerable volatility from year to year based on the number of active and developing mines. Jurisdictions with fewer mines tend to experience greater volatility as the construction of a single mine can account for a significant portion of overall spending. CAPEX is concentrated in some of Canada’s largest mining jurisdictions and, in 2021, three provinces accounted for 65% of the mining industry’s CAPEX: Ontario (24%), Quebec (22%) and Saskatchewan (19%).

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

Most Canadian provinces and territories experienced a year-over-year increase in minerals sector CAPEX in 2021. In terms of percentage, Newfoundland and Labrador incurred the largest increase at 47%, followed by Manitoba (+36%), Quebec (+32%), Nunavut (+13%), British Columbia (+11%) and Ontario (+10%). Declines were reported in Saskatchewan (-6%), Northwest Territories (-10%) and Alberta (-37%).

Figure 3: Mining industry capital expenditures, by jurisdiction (subject to data availability), 2020–22

Figure 3: Mining industry capital expenditures, by jurisdiction, 2020–22
Text version — Figure 3
Figure 3: Mining industry capital expenditures, by jurisdiction ($ millions), 2020–22
Province / Territory 2020 2021 (p) 2022 (i)
Newfoundland and Labrador 854.0 1,255.5 1,209.2
Prince Edward Island x x x
Nova Scotia x x x
New Brunswick x x x
Quebec 1,829.3 2,406.3 2,665.3
Ontario 2,366.2 2,603.0 3,179.7
Manitoba 246.6 334.3 410.7
Saskatchewan 2,146.0 2,020.0 2,750.5
Alberta 127.7 81.1 84.5
British Columbia 974.3 1,083.2 1,333.1
Yukon 70.0 x 154.0
Northwest Territories 103.9 93.4 x
Nunavut 660.6 749.6 713.6

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


Spending intentions for 2022 reveal that a number of jurisdictions will extend their positive investment trend for another year as capital spending is expected to increase for Saskatchewan (+36%), British Columbia (+23%), Manitoba (+23%), Ontario (+22%), Quebec (+11%) and Alberta (+4%). Declining CAPEX is forecast for Newfoundland and Labrador (-4%), and Nunavut (-5%).

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