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Mining and mineral resource development in Canada

The mining and mineral industry in Canada contributes to Canada’s economic growth and the livelihoods of people and communities. To ensure it does not result in significant environmental or social costs, mining projects are regulated at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. On this page, you can learn about the contribution of mining to Canada, the social and legal framework for mining and how companies explore for minerals and develop mines.

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Mining in Canada’s economy and society

Mining contributes to Canada’s economic growth in many ways. Mineral and metal exploration and mine operations provide well-paid jobs, training and skills for employees. Mines contribute to the economy in the region where they are located, as well as many other regions of Canada through the purchase of goods and services. Infrastructure such as roads and rail are often built to service mines and can be another benefit for the region.

For recent statistics on the economic contributions of the mining industry in Canada, visit Minerals and metals facts.

While mining can be particularly important for rural and/or remote communities, it also contributes economically to larger communities, where smelters, refineries and semi-fabrication and fabrication plants are often located. Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver are also important hubs for mining financing, legal services and head offices.

Sustainable and ethical

Canadians expect that activities along the minerals value chain, from exploration to manufacturing, are done in a responsible and sustainable manner. The Mining Association of Canada’s initiative Towards Sustainable Mining and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s e3 Plus framework for responsible exploration are examples of initiatives that can help the minerals sector maintain its position as an important economic contributor in Canada while protecting the environment and remaining socially responsible. The industry must also follow laws to ensure financial transparency and ethical trade.

To learn how mining is meeting these challenges, visit Responsible mining.

Before a project is approved, an impact assessment is conducted by government to ensure the project:

  • protects the environment
  • contributes to the social and economic well-being of the people of Canada
  • preserves the health of the people of Canada for present and future generations

For more information, visit Basics of impact assessments -

Framework for mineral exploration and mining in Canada

There are many requirements under legislation, regulations or bylaws for mineral exploration and mining operations under the authority of:

  • the federal government
  • the provincial or territorial government where mineral exploration or mining is taking place
  • the municipal government where mineral exploration or mining is taking place

Companies should be aware of the requirements in the area where they are working. Like all businesses and industries in Canada, mineral exploration and mining companies must ensure they follow all laws that apply to their work. The diagram shows many “players” involved in the mineral development process in Canada and their area of responsibilities or involvement. This regulatory environment for the resource sector is also supported by Canada’s independent judicial system.

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Diagram shows the many “players” involved in the mineral development process in Canada and their areas of responsibilities or involvement, including exploration, extraction and reclamation. The industry is represented by industry associations, and the diagram shows programs to advance responsible mining: Towards Sustainable Mining initiative and the e3 Plus framework for responsible exploration. Mining operates in an environment with the following players:

Local and Indigenous communities

  • Communities / Indigenous peoples
    • Social licence to operate
    • Socio-economic agreements
  • Federal government
    • Corporate income taxes
    • Environmental regulations
    • Economic development
    • Duty to consult
    • Geoscience
    • Uranium
    • Investment Canada Act
    • Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act
    • Market access
  • Municipal governments
    • Property taxes
    • Local permits
  • Provincial and territorial governments
    • Resource ownership / Land-use planning
    • Mining and corporate income taxes
    • Economic development
    • Health and safety, labour and environmental regulations
    • Security regulations
    • Geoscience
  • Stock exchanges and security regulations
    • Source of mineral capital
    • Disclosure (NI43-101)
    • Financial statements
    • Enforcement/Compliance
  • Industry associations
    • Accreditation
    • Best practices
  • Independent judicial system

Federal regulations affecting mining in Canada

In Canada, mining is within provincial and territorial jurisdiction, and provinces and territories have laws and regulations specifically for mining. However, the federal government also regulates several areas that affect mining:

  • uranium in the context of the nuclear fuel cycle (from exploration to the final disposal of reactor and mine waste)
  • mineral activities related to federal Crown corporations
  • mineral activities on federal lands and in offshore areas
  • transporting explosives and some minerals, which falls under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992

Many laws protecting aspects of the environment also affect mining:


Exploration and mining companies, like all publicly traded companies in Canada, must meet requirements of securities regulations and stock exchanges. There are specific rules for public disclosure of scientific and technical information to ensure the accuracy and integrity of reports.

For more information, visit Canadian Securities Regulatory Standards for Mineral Projects (

Industry and professional associations

Industry associations work to establish best practices in the industry and represent the industry’s interests to governments and Canadians.

Professionals in mining may also belong to professional associations and scientific societies in their particular fields.

The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum sets standards for the industry: Standards, Best Practices and Guidance for Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves (

Mineral exploration, development, operation and closure

Finding an ore body and developing it into a mine is a long, costly and complex process that can take many years. During exploration and development, companies make considerable efforts to find mineral deposits, evaluate them and determine the feasibility of a potential mine. Once a mine is in production, it faces ongoing operational expenses and changing commodity prices. A mine closes when the metal or mineral is exhausted, demand diminishes or production is no longer profitable. At this point, the mine will be decommissioned and the environment in the area restored. The diagram shows the main stages in the lifecycle of a mine.

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The diagram shows the sequence of mineral development. It begins with pre-exploration, followed by exploration for 7 to 10 years. Development then requires 5 to 10 years, followed by operation for 5 to 30 years. Mine closure takes 2 to 10 years, and there may be post-closure measures. Throughout the sequence, the mine development company engages with the community.

Companies involved in mineral exploration and mining are referred to as “junior” or “senior.” Junior companies are mostly involved in the exploration phase but can occasionally advance a project toward production. There are many junior companies in Canada, up to 7 times more than senior companies. Exploration and mining activities require increasing amounts of investment capital as they progress toward production. Junior companies raise equity capital to finance exploration of mineral resources. Senior companies are those that have at least 1 mine in production and they often conduct exploration as well. There are fewer than 200 such companies in Canada. Senior companies have revenues from production that can finance exploration.

What is involved in these stages of the mineral exploration and mining lifecycle?


Before exploration begins, companies assess mineral potential, using surveys and other forms of research, then put together the information gathered from these steps.


Exploration involves major effort to determine the location, size and shape of mineral deposits. In planning exploration, companies decide which metals or minerals they are searching for and set objectives and strategies for exploration.

Companies use various survey methods to search a wide geographic area for “anomalies,” which are findings that may indicate a mineral deposit in the underlying bedrock. They narrow down the search on the ground. Through experimental drilling and excavation (prospecting), they determine whether the mineral is present, its exact location and characteristics.

This is followed by a step to verify anomalies and “showings,” which are outcroppings or indications just below the surface containing the target metal or mineral. If verification is successful, the company has discovered a mineral deposit. Then it delimits the deposit; that is, it determines the shape and boundaries of the deposit and identifies sections of the deposit with different grades of the mineral.

Mineral deposit appraisal

Finding a deposit is only the first step in deciding whether it is worthwhile to mine the deposit. A company must define the limits of the deposit, the grades of the mineral in the deposit and its mineralogical and processing characteristics. Then it has to consider the engineering for the project, including design, plans and schedules and an estimate of capital and operating costs. It must then conduct an economic, financial, social and regulatory evaluation of the project. Based on the information in the appraisal, the company determines whether the mining project is feasible and decides whether to undertake the project.

Permits and environmental studies

Throughout mineral appraisal, a company must carry out environmental baseline studies. The company must also get government authorizations and permits, required under various laws, to undertake specific activities and advance to mineral production.

Mine complex development

Developing the mine is most often accomplished by a senior mining company. Mine development is a major construction project. The mine itself needs to be built by uncovering the deposit, preparing the area, sinking shafts and so on. Mines are “open pit,” meaning a large hole on the surface, or “underground,” consisting of a series of shafts beneath the surface, or a combination of the two. Additionally, a processing plant needs to be constructed and infrastructure such as roads or rail may need to be built to transport large quantities of the metal or mineral for further processing and sale.

Mine production

Once the mine is operating, the product needs to be shipped to markets or for further processing. The company may explore further to expand its reserves of the metal or mineral. Reserves are the part of the resource that can be mined economically and are suitable for processing and sale.

Environmental restoration

When a mining company decides to close a mine, it must decommission the mine, processing plant and any other parts of the mine complex. The site must be restored to prevent negative effects on the environment or people’s health and safety in the future.

How Canada supports mineral exploration

Canada is open to mineral development and investment. There are few barriers to foreign companies establishing a new business or acquiring a business in minerals and metals. Geological information and statistics on minerals and metals are available and accessible by anyone.

Canada is a global centre for the financing of exploration and mining. It is home to over 40% of the world’s publicly listed mining and exploration companies. Companies raise capital on Canada’s stock exchanges, including the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture. Regulations governing securities are set by provincial and territorial governments. Read Framework for mineral exploration and mining in Canada, above, for more about the regulation of securities.

Mineral exploration, in particular, is high risk and has a long lead time before it makes returns. Canada’s tax regime includes several incentives to aid in mineral exploration. These include Canadian exploration expenses, flow-through shares and the mineral exploration tax credit. For more information, visit Tax incentives for mining and exploration.

Canada offers many opportunities in mining. It is home to a rich geological endowment and wide variety of metals and minerals. Some of the top-value minerals and metals mined in Canada are gold, iron ore, coal, copper, potash, nickel, platinum group metals, sand and gravel, stone and diamonds.

You may be interested in information for investors.

  • Mining Sector Performance Reports (MSPR) provide economic, social and environmental indicators that help characterize performance trends in Canada’s minerals sector
  • Invest in Canada connects investors with the information and opportunities for investment in Canada’s mining industry.

Critical minerals in Canada

In 2021 the Government of Canada published a list of critical minerals that are:

  • essential to Canada’s economic security
  • required for Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy
  • a sustainable source for Canada’s partners

These minerals are a priority for Canada. The Government of Canada is working to position Canada as a global leader in the production of these minerals and to secure value chains, from mines to manufacturing. A wide range of programs and policies are available to support the development of critical mineral projects and value chains.


Critical minerals in Canada

The Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence (CMCE) at Natural Resources Canada leads Canada’s policies and programs on critical minerals, which are essential for a green and digital economy. It collaborates with industry, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, non-governmental and international partners.

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