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A year in review

December 31, 2013

2013 has come and gone. For most of the north it was not a great year, bad in some areas/sectors good in others. The biggest surprise was the downward trajectory of metal prices after a rather buoyant 2012. Oil prices declined a little.

Here are some observations/opinions for the 10 north of 56 jurisdictions. The good and bad from an economic development/resource development perspective:

Alaska - New investments in the North Slope has really helped the Alaska economy. All three majors have ambitious investment programs: Exxon-Mobil at Point Thompson; BP offshore and on the North Slope and Conoco-Phillips on the fields like Kuparuk and Mooses Tooth. The big three are still actively researching a gas pipeline and LNG terminal.  Alaska’s 6 mines continued producing throughout the year. The State ended the year with a $1B deficit on the heals of declining oil production.

Yukon- A tough year as exploration expenditures declined along with gold/silver prices. One of three mines, the small Bellekeno silver mine at Keno ceased operations.

Northern BC - Strong economic activity highlighted by construction of the Red Chris mine, a $500M hydro line extension down Highway 37 and three hydro projects by Alta Gas.

NWT- A good year generally, with three diamond mines in production + CanTung (tunsten) mine. Winter drilling activity near Norman Wells boosts economic activity in that community. Next year construction of the all season road to Tuk will help create jobs in the Delta.

Nunavut- One gold mine is producing and another soon to be under construction. Lower prices and complaints about the regulatory environment drove exploration expenditures downward. Next year promises to be better as the giant Mary River iron ore project on Baffin Island gets under way.

Northern Alberta. The good news is that oil prices have remained near $100/barrel. The oil sands produced about 2.1M barrels/day on average in 2013. The giant Kearl oil sands plant began production. Another mega-mine called Fort Hills received the green light for construction to start. Transportation of bitumen to market remains a big problem and price deterioration of WTI vs Brent increased later in the year.

Northern Saskatchewan. Uranium is the big story. There are 3 operating uranium mines. While the production date for the Cigar Lake mine, the richest in the world, has been delayed until 2014, this mine will be a big producer for many years. The world has consumed the last of former Russian nuclear weapons fuel, and the Chinese are building about 3 dozen nuclear reactors.

Northern Manitoba. Not much new, but Manitoba Hydro is continuing its ambitious plans to develop the Nelson River.

Nunavik (northernmost Quebec). One operating nickel mine. The province of Quebec has revised its mining royalties regime, but investment in mining and exploration has fallen in 2013.

Greenland. Only one small gold mine on this giant island. The new government and electorate have decided in favour of uranium mining. There are a few giant projects that may progress in 2014.


Happy New Year to all !