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Minerals Sector Employment

Information Bulletin

(Published in January 2019)

The Canadian minerals sector offers employment throughout the country, including in many northern and remote locations.

Find out why these well-paid, high-quality jobs are important to Canada:

Table of Contents


The minerals sector in Canada is a pillar of the national economy. In 2017, it accounted for 634,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the country in urban, rural and remote regions (Figure 1).

According to Natural Resources Satellite Account data provided by Statistics Canada,Footnote 1 the minerals sector (including upstream extraction, primary processing and downstream metal product manufacturing) directly employed 426,000 individuals. Approximately 50% of these individuals were employed in the downstream processing industries in 2017.

In addition to direct employment, the minerals sector generates significant indirect economic activity through the purchase of goods and services. The equipment, technology and service suppliers are part of the minerals sector ecosystem and have contributed to establishing Canada’s global reputation as a leader in the sector. In 2017, suppliers had an estimated 208,000 indirect jobs.Footnote 2

Figure 1: Employment by category and subsector, 2017

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Figure 1: Employment by category and subsector, 2017
Jobs Total
Indirect 208,000*
Direct 426,000
   Mining (including services) 107,000
   Primary manufacturing 97,000
   Downstream processing 222,000

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada (Natural Resources Satellite Account table 38-10-0285-01).
*Natural Resources Canada estimate based on Statistics Canada data.

According to System of National Accounts data on labour provided by Statistics Canada,Footnote 3,Footnote 4 direct employment in Canada’s minerals sector increased 4% (+15,000 jobs) in 2017 compared to 2016. Employment gains were concentrated in the upstream mining and direct services (including mineral exploration and contract drilling) industries, which increased 7% year-over-year. These gains put an end to a declining trend in employment in the minerals sector that started in 2013 and that was driven by job losses concentrated in the downstream manufacturing industries (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Employment by industry, 2008–17

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Figure 2: Employment by industry, 2008–17
Year Mining and quarrying Support activities for mining Non-metallic mineral product manufacturing Primary metal manufacturing Fabricated metal product manufacturing Total
2008 54,780 21,850 55,070 82,960 180,030 394,690
2009 48,830 18,810 52,215 66,015 164,250 350,120
2010 52,670 22,350 54,150 70,570 161,075 360,815
2011 56,330 29,985 53,490 78,980 165,465 384,250
2012 58,420 33,395 54,390 68,480 169,570 384,255
2013 66,375 27,495 53,985 66,510 167,025 381,390
2014 71,140 22,010 52,760 66,090 170,165 382,165
2015 71,140 21,200 53,310 62,740 169,855 378,245
2016 66,310 20,955 51,545 62,235 166,250 367,295
2017 71,010 23,425 52,040 65,035 170,710 382,220

Source: Labour statistics consistent with Statistics Canada (System of National Accounts table 36-10-0489-01).

Employment by industry

In the mining and quarrying industry,Footnote 5 there were a total of 71,010 jobs in 2017, representing an increase of 4,700 or 7.1% from 2016. This increase in employment was the result of 10 mines opening or reopening (Table 1), which offset job losses caused by three mines closing or suspending production. Total compensation per job in this industry was $119,000, nearly double the Canadian all-industry average of $60,000.

Table 1: Mine openings and closings, in 2017
Mine Status Month Province /
Primary commodity
Dome Closed December Ontario Gold
Stobie Suspended/Care and maintenance May Ontario Nickel
Birchtree Suspended/Care and maintenance September Manitoba Nickel
Dufferin Opened June Nova Scotia Gold
Moose River Consolidated Opened October Nova Scotia Gold
Donkin Opened February Nova Scotia Coal (metallurgical, thermal)
Rainy River Opened October Ontario Gold, silver
Bethune Opened June Saskatchewan Potash
Brucejack Opened July British Columbia Gold, silver
Gahcho Kué Opened March Northwest Territories Diamonds
Hope Bay Opened May Nunavut Gold
Colonsay Reopened January Saskatchewan Potash, salt
Wolverine Reopened January British Columbia Coal (metallurgical)

Source: Natural Resources Canada (Map 900A: Principal Mineral Areas, Producing Mines and Oil and Gas Fields in Canada).

Overall employment increased in the metal mining subsector in 2017, with employment gains in gold and silver mining (+21.0%) and iron ore mining (+7.3%) leading the way. These gains offset employment declines in base-metal mining (-3.0%) and other metal mining (-4.7%). Other metal mining includes activities like the mining and production of uranium, vanadium, cobalt and tin that are listed under North American Industry Classification System codes 212291 and 212299.

Employment grew in the non-metallic mining subsector (+5.7%) in 2017, led by increases in the potash industry (+8.1%), sand and gravel quarrying (+6.3%) and stone quarrying (+5.6%). These increases offset declines in diamond mining (-7.1%). Coal mining experienced its first increase since 2014 (+8.2%) with the opening of two new coal mines.

In 2017, employment in the mining support activities industry,Footnote 6 which includes exploration activities, recorded its first increase in four years with employment rising by 11.8% to 23,425 jobs. This industry is very sensitive to mineral and metal prices and is even more volatile than the mining industry it serves. Total compensation per job in the industry for 2017 was approximately $106,000, down slightly from the previous year, but still among the highest values on record.Footnote 7

The primary metal manufacturing industry includes facilities engaged in the smelting and refining of ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The industry employed 65,035 workers in 2017, a 4.5% increase over 2016. However, employment has been declining steadily in the industry over the long term, down 21.6% over the last decade. The iron and steel manufacturing and non-ferrous metals (except aluminum) processing subsectors account for about 75% of the total decline. Total compensation per job remained stable at $106,000 between 2016 and 2017.

The non-metallic mineral product manufacturing industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in lime, cement, concrete, glass and other non-metallic mineral product manufacturing. Employment in this industry remained stable with an increase of just 1.0% to 52,040 jobs in 2017, despite a slight downward trend in employment over the longer term. Total compensation per job has increased for eight consecutive years to reach $76,000 in 2017.

The fabricated metal product manufacturing industry accounts for almost 50% of all employment in the Canadian minerals sector and comprises establishments primarily engaged in forging, stamping, forming, turning and joining processes to produce ferrous and non-ferrous metal products. Employment increased 2.7% in 2017 to 170,710, with total compensation per job remaining steady at $69,000 per worker.

Employment by province and territory

Two thirds of employment in Canada’s minerals sector is concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. This is largely due to the presence of a significant downstream manufacturing industry in these two provinces (Table 2). On a year-over-year basis, employment increased in all jurisdictions except New Brunswick (-2.7%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-2.8%) and the Northwest Territories (-3.6%).

Table 2: Employment by province and territory, 2017
Province /
Total jobs
Mining and quarrying Support activities for mining Non-metallic mineral product manufacturing Primary metal manufacturing Fabricated metal product manufacturing Total
Newfoundland and Labrador 2,095 985 210 245 595 4,130
Prince Edward Island 35 0 100 20 385 540
Nova Scotia 610 140 515 30 2,460 3,755
New Brunswick 1,730 1,000 905 170 2,375 6,180
Quebec 15,440 2,875 14,220 23,460 47,935 103,930
Ontario 19,215 6,830 21,455 30,390 73,845 151,735
Manitoba 2,140 680 940 1,920 5,300 10,980
Saskatchewan 10,280 1,960 750 1,405 3,840 18,235
Alberta 6,220 1,825 6,655 2,405 20,365 37,470
British Columbia 9,510 4,125 6,235 4,990 13,580 38,440
Yukon 530 1,075 25 0 20 1,650
Northwest Territories 2,355 985 30 0 10 3,380
Nunavut 850 945 0 0 0 1,795

Source: Labour statistics consistent with Statistics Canada (System of National Accounts table 36-10-0489-01).

Future hiring requirements

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) forecasts that cumulative hiring requirements for the mining industry will range from approximately 49,000 to 135,000 workers over the next 10 years.Footnote 8,Footnote 9 These requirements will mostly stem from worker retirement. In addition, the MiHR compared these requirements to a forecast of available talent in a number of occupations and three significant gaps were identified in the following categories: supervisors, support workers and tradespeople. The industry’s increasing reliance on advanced machinery and technology will also increase the educational requirements of the workforce towards these occupations.

Workforce diversity

The minerals sector is an important employer of Indigenous peoples, providing jobs to over 16,500 individuals.Footnote 10 The largest share of Indigenous employment was in the upstream mining subsector where Indigenous peoples accounted for 12% of the industry’s labour force, which is almost three times the all-industry average of 4% and up from 8% in 2011. Footnote 10

On a national basis, women comprise 48% of the Canadian labour force, but account for only 14% in the mining industry, which is up from 10% in 2001.Footnote 10 Low representation of women is not exclusive to this industry and is found in many resource-based industries (e.g., forestry and logging at 13%) and other industries such as construction (12%). The MiHR noted that the low representation of women in mining is both an occupational and industry-level issue and that, in general, occupations that are mining specific demonstrate the lowest representation of women. By working to narrow this gap, the mining industry could simultaneously alleviate its anticipated skilled labour shortages and add diverse skill sets and perspectives to the workforce.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources, 2018

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