7 May

Where Do Canada’s Natural Resources End Up?

Posted by Andrea Ryan

Natural resources drive Canadian economic growth forward. While some of this production is bound for the domestic market, much of it is exported around the world.

Download "The 2017/2018 Engineering and Technical Salary Guide"

In 2017, Canada shipped more than $5 billion worth of goods around the world. While this number was down from 2013, it represented growth from 2016. Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to wonder how much of Canada’s exports are natural resources, and where those products end up.

Mineral Fuels and Oil

It should come as no surprise that one of Canada’s top exports is oil. The explosive growth of the oil sands operations in Alberta has been fuelled by both domestic demand and export markets. The construction of the Trans Mountain and Keystone XL pipelines is designed to help Canada export more oil to China and the United States, respectively.

Oil and mineral fuels top Canada’s exports to the US, amounting to about $99 billion in 2017. The market in China is much smaller, amounting to just under $1 billion. Canadian oil and mineral fuels represent the largest Canadian export to Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands.

You can find Canadian oil all around the world. The UK, France, India, Mexico, and Germany also import Canadian oil.

Forestry Products

Timber is another vast natural resource in Canada. With the bountiful boreal forest covering much of the country and a “rainforest” in BC, Canada’s forests are often a source of pride.

They’re also an enormous natural resource and a source of economic activity. The forestry sector remains vibrant. Despite some rumbling from south of the border, the US imported billions worth of wood products from Canada last year alone.

Wood and wood pulp are in fact Canada’s second- and third-largest exports to China, and Canadian forestry products end up in South Korea, Japan, and the UK.

Ores and Other Mine Products

Oil is a specific type of mining product, as are other mineral fuels. They’re often considered separately from other mining products, such as gold, diamonds, lithium, and other various ores. Canada has long had a strong mining sector, and this hasn’t changed.

If oil and mineral fuels were counted as part of ores and other mining products, it would be the top category for many export markets. As it stands, ores represent the second-largest export to South Korea, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Japan and the UK are also large export markets.

Gems and precious metals are also mine products, although they’re usually less important on the export market. Nonetheless, trade in these products represented the number-one export to the UK and Belgium in 2017. Germany was also a large importer of Canadian gems and precious metals, as was India.


Although you could easily count nickel in the “mine products” category, it’s often singled out and listed on its own. Canada has long been an important international resource for nickel deposits and exports. In fact, the mining town of Sudbury, Ontario, is known for its nickel mines and even has a giant nickel monument.

Nickel was an important export for the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands.


Fish is often considered a natural resource, and the fishery industry has long played an important role in both the Canadian economy and Canadian history. In the late 1500s, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland were important fishing grounds for Europeans.

Today, fish remains an important natural resource. France, Belgium, Japan, and China are all important markets for Canadian fish products.

Not all of Canada’s natural resource production is bound for foreign markets. Much of it also stays home and is sold on the Canadian market. It may be refined further into products destined for Canadian homes or bound for export almost anywhere in the world.


Topics: Industry News

Andrea Ryan

Andrea is the branch manager for Design Group Staffing in Edmonton, Alberta. She has over 20 years of experience in staffing and customer service. She has spent 12 of those years with Design Group Staffing Edmonton. She leads a team of top performers who excel at providing unparalleled service when delivering on all staffing solutions. Andrea received Bachelor’s degrees in Science and Education from the University of Alberta. In her spare time, she enjoys practising yoga, spending time with family, and travelling. She’s also renowned for her snack corner, which keeps the office well fed.

Find me on:
Engineering jobs in Canada