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Are miners denigrating Canadian geology?

by Greg Klein | March 4, 2016

Are miners denigrating Canadian geology?

 

A look at Canadian jurisdictions in this year’s Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies suggests perceptions of the country’s geology have declined. The survey emphasizes two main indexes, one addressing matters of government policy, the other considering geology as well as policy. The biggest changes from the previous year showed up in the latter index.

Called the Investment Attractiveness Index, it weighs responses from mining and exploration professionals, giving 60% for their answers on questions about mineral potential and 40% on questions about public policy. The 60/40 split reflects the way companies generally base their investment decisions, according to the survey.

The IAI ranked New Brunswick 11th out of 12 Canadian jurisdictions (Prince Edward Island wasn’t included) and 45th out of 109 jurisdictions worldwide. That’s a steep fall from the previous year, when New Brunswick came in 19th out of 122 jurisdictions.

But the survey’s Policy Perception Index was less dramatic, showing the province fell from third place in 2014 to ninth place in the current poll.

The IAI dropped Manitoba from fifth to 19th place globally. But the PPI actually raised the province two notches, from 15th to 13th.

Then there’s Nova Scotia, with Canada’s worst IAI score. But the province gets a middling sixth place in Canada for public policy. (Globally, the province ranked 59 on IAI and 17 on PPI.)

Obviously public policy can change significantly and quickly. But, barring dramatic new discoveries, widespread mine depletion or plunging commodity prices, wouldn’t mineral potential undergo more gradual transformation?

When rating geology, companies “have downgraded Canada a bit and they’re saying it’s less attractive this year,” says Fraser Institute policy analyst Taylor Jackson, who co-authored the survey with Kenneth Green. “This is the reason we saw Australia surpass Canada as the region that’s the most overall attractive in the world.”

Jackson adds, “It could be that they’re factoring in that certain commodities are less attractive to them than in the past. It is tough to say, though, what they’re thinking. It could be a combination of things.”

Strangest of all Canadian rankings was Nunavut. The territory showed strong IAI improvement, moving from 34th to 23rd place. That contrasted with its PPI score, which declined from 51st to 54th.

Despite Canada’s slump, Saskatchewan held on to its second-place global IAI position and moved from fifth to fourth place on the global PPI. Apparently the potash gloom failed to overshadow mining-friendly policies and high Athabasca Basin uranium grades.

Download the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2015.

Read about the previous week’s Fraser Institute report on permitting times across Canada.

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