Assistant Chief Geologist, Government of Saskatchewan
An overview of mineral exploration and development activities in Saskatchewan
With a rich and diverse mineral endowment and a stable, predictable regulatory regime, Saskatchewan is recognized as one of the most favorable jurisdictions in the world for investment in mineral exploration and mine-development. In its 2021 Annual Survey of Mining Companies, Canadian public policy think tank the Fraser Institute, evaluated 84 jurisdictions based on their perceived geological potential and regulatory environments and ranked Saskatchewan first in Canada and second globally for mining investment attractiveness. Saskatchewan received a similar vote of confidence from The Mining Journal, a global mining business magazine that has been in circulation since the mid-1800s, which evaluated 106 jurisdictions for its 2021 World Risk Report and ranked Saskatchewan as the third most secure jurisdiction on its investment risk index rating.
After a minor COVID 19-related lull in 2020, mineral exploration and development activities in Saskatchewan have rebounded back to their 10-year average. Uranium exploration continues to account for the bulk of provincial expenditures, but spending on gold, base metals and critical minerals exploration continues to be well above historic averages. Average expenditures on gold exploration programs over last five years, for example, have more than doubled compared to the average of the previous 30-year period. Similarly, exploration for base metals and platinum group metals has resulted in spending levels three times higher than the previous 30-year average. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Energy and Resources indicated that over $260 million (M) was to be spent on mineral exploration in Saskatchewan in 2022, up significantly from actual expenditures of $213.7M in 2021, $135.7M in 2020, and nearly on par with the $263.7M spent in 2019.
The increased activity in the province is also reflected in the amount of land under disposition by explorers. As of September 1, 2021, active mineral dispositions in Saskatchewan (issued pursuant to The Mineral Tenure Registry Regulations) totalled 9.45M hectares (ha), up significantly from the 7.17M ha held at the same time one year ago. The total amount of land in Saskatchewan under disposition for minerals, potash, coal, alkali and quarriable substances is just over 12.3M ha, or 18.9 per cent of the province’s surface area.
The total value of mineral sales in Saskatchewan was approximately $8.6 billion (B) in 2021, mostly thanks to near-record potash sales volumes and steadily increasing commodity prices. Total mineral sales value was up from $6B in 2020, $7.4B in 2019 and $7B in 2018. The province also produced coal, gold, salt, sodium sulphate and potassium sulphate, as well as clay products and Saskatchewan is on pace for another banner year for mineral sales in 2022 as commodity prices continue their strong run.
Jason is a University of Regina graduate who has spent the past 15 years with the Saskatchewan Geological Survey, 11 of which as Director of the Minerals and Northern Geology Unit. The MNG team plans and executes bedrock and quaternary mapping programs as well as conducting ore systems, mineral deposit and land use studies in the province. Prior to joining government, Jason spent 10 years in the minerals industry, focused primarily on diamond exploration across much of Canada. These days you’re more likely to find Jason chasing after his two young boys than swinging a rock hammer.
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