New Brunswick is the world’s most attractive jurisdiction for mineral exploration and development in the view of the international mining industry, according to the Survey of Mining Companies: 2011/2012, released today by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank.
“New Brunswick shot to the top of the rankings as miners lauded the province for its fair, transparent and efficient legal system and consistency in the enforcement and interpretation of existing environmental regulations,” said Fred McMahon, Fraser Institute vice president of international policy research and coordinator of the survey. “Combine that with a competitive taxation regime and minimal uncertainty around disputed land claims and New Brunswick has emerged as a superstar in the view of the global mining community.”
New Brunswick vaulted to first place from 23rd last year, unseating Alberta at the top of the global rankings as that province fell to third overall. Quebec, which enjoyed a three-year reign at No. 1 from 2007 to 2010, continued to lose support among mining executives as it fell to fifth place from fourth in 2011.
“Quebec’s reputation floundered over the past two years due to uncertainty around royalty increases and proposed changes to the provincial mining act. Miners prefer to do business in New Brunswick and Alberta, where mining policy is clear and the government resource-friendly,” McMahon said.
This year, Saskatchewan fell to sixth place from third, while Manitoba dropped out of the top 10 altogether, plummeting to 20th position after ranking ninth last year.
“Respondents blasted Manitoba for its mishandling of First Nations consultations, which they say creates excessive delays in processing permits and licenses. That’s damaged the province’s reputation and is reflected in the rankings,” McMahon said.
The Fraser Institute’s Survey of Mining Companies: 2011/2012 is based on the opinions of mining executives representing 802 mineral exploration and development companies on the investment climate of 93 jurisdictions around the world (new additions this year include Missouri, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Guyana, Laos, Mauritania, Morocco, Poland, Suriname, and eight provinces of Argentina). The companies participating in the survey reported exploration spending of $6.3 billion in 2011 and $4.5 billion in 2010.
Canadian jurisdictions claimed five of the top 10 spots this year. Joining New Brunswick, Alberta, Quebec and Saskatchewan in the 10 is the Yukon territory, which jumped to 10th from 15th last year, earning it the distinction of being the first of Canada’s territories ever to achieve a top-10 ranking in the survey.
The remaining provinces and territories fared well overall, with Ontario placing 13th, Nova Scotia 15th, Newfoundland and Labrador 16th, Manitoba 20th, British Columbia 31st, Nunavut 36th, and the Northwest Territories 48th.
Worldwide, the top 10 jurisdictions are New Brunswick, Finland, Alberta, Wyoming, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Sweden, Nevada, Ireland and the Yukon. Seven of the same jurisdictions ranked among the top 10 last year; newcomers include New Brunswick, Ireland (which jumped to ninth from 16th), and the Yukon, replacing Manitoba. Utah (fell to 21st from sixth), and Chile (dropped to 18th from eighth).
“Chile had been the only jurisdiction outside of North America to consistently rank among the top 10 since the inception of the survey. It has been replaced by Sweden and Finland, which have now been in the top 10 for the past three years,” McMahon. “The presence of these Nordic countries among the world’s most preferred mining jurisdictions shows that environmental stewardship and natural resource development can go hand in hand.”
The bottom 10 scores went to Vietnam, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, India, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Zimbabwe, which were among the worst-ranked jurisdictions in the 2010/2011 survey, managed to climb out of the bottom 10 this year.
The report also notes that miners appear relatively pessimistic about future commodity prices, reporting they expect level or reduced prices for silver, copper, diamonds, coal, zinc, nickel, potash and platinum. The only exception was gold, where a vast majority of respondents expected increased prices.
Reduced optimism is also reflected in miners’ investment intentions. This year, 68% of respondents said they expected to increase their exploration budgets in 2012, compared to 82% who planned to hike their exploration budgets in 2011.
“The key to establishing a positive investment climate is for governments to have a clear, sensible vision for mining policy and to stick to it,” McMahon said. “By upholding the rule of law, respecting negotiated contracts and property rights, and eliminating risk with regard to tax increases and red tape, nations can attract mining investment and reap the economic and social benefits of new jobs and increased prosperity.”