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Saskatchewan tops West for mining investments

Powerhouse Prairie province ranked No. 3 in the world, while rest of the West failed to crack the top 10 in ability to attract and retain investors
Saskatchewan is the world’s largest potash producer. | Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan remains Canada’s most attractive jurisdiction for mining investment, according to the Annual Survey of Mining Companies released February 23 by the Fraser Institute, an independent policy think-tank.

The top ranking is likely no surprise to Bronwyn Eyre, the province’s Energy and Resources Minister, who noted that Saskatchewan produces more potash than any other country in the world, with about a 30 per cent global share.

Saskatchewan is also the world’s second-largest uranium producer, accounting for approximately 13 per cent of global production, she added.

“[Saskatchewan’s} mining sector has grown in diversification, including into diamonds, nickel and copper,” Eyre said. “In recent years, Saskatchewan has proudly welcomed new mining companies to the province. We offer some of the most extensive mineral research labs in the world, internationally renowned geoscience and extensive junior exploration opportunities.”

“The Fraser Institute’s mining survey is the most comprehensive report on government policies that either attract or discourage mining investors,” said Elmira Aliakbari, director of the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Natural Resource Studies and co-author of the 2021 report.

This year’s report ranks 77 jurisdictions around the world based on their geologic attractiveness (minerals and metals) and government policies that encourage or deter exploration and investment.

Estimated exploration expenditures in Saskatchewan for 2019 were $281 million, with more than $2.3 billion in expenditures over the past decade. Saskatchewan’s mining industry generated $7.4 billion in sales in 2019 and more than $72.3 billion since 2010, according to the provincial government.

On the Fraser Institute report’s overall investment attractiveness index, Saskatchewan remains the top-rated Canadian jurisdiction (3rd up from 11th last year) followed by Quebec (6th up from 18th) and Newfoundland and Labrador (8th up from 28th). Alberta was in 22nd place this year, with Manitoba in 37th place.

However, Quebec’s strong performance in overall investment attractiveness is due largely to the province’s mineral potential. On government policy alone, Quebec ranks 17th, which suggests there’s plenty of room for improvement.

British Columbia and Ontario also perform poorly on the policy front due to investor concerns about disputed land claims and protected areas. B.C. ranked 17th with Ontario at the 20th spot, according to the Fraser report.

“A sound and predictable regulatory regime coupled with competitive fiscal policies help make a jurisdiction attractive in the eyes of mining investors,” said Jairo Yunis, Fraser Institute policy analyst and report co-author.

“Policymakers in every province and territory should understand that mineral deposits alone are not enough to attract precious investment dollars,” Aliakbari said.