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Global survey names Alberta as top destination for mining investment, Saskatchewan ranks third while Quebec falls to fourth

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Release Date: March 3, 2011
TORONTO—Alberta has surpassed Quebec as the world’s most attractive jurisdiction for mineral exploration and development, according to the Survey of Mining Companies: 2010/2011, released today by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank.

“Alberta’s resource-friendly government, competitive taxation regime, and superior infrastructure render the province a standout for mining investment, not only in Canada but also globally,” said Fred McMahon, coordinator of the survey and the Institute’s vice-president of international policy research.

“There’s minimal uncertainty around mining in Alberta.”

Quebec, which was ranked number one in the global survey for three years running, fell to fourth overall, passed also by Nevada and Saskatchewan, which ranked second and third.

Respondents lauded Saskatchewan for its clear regulatory policies and efficient conflict-resolution system.

“Quebec damaged its reputation when the government proposed tax increases last spring and tabled a bill amending the provincial mining act in December 2009. These variables rocked miners’ confidence in the province and we see the result with the drop in rankings,” McMahon said.

The Fraser Institute’s Survey of Mining Companies: 2010/2011 is based on the opinions of mining executives representing 494 mineral exploration and development companies on the investment climate of 79 jurisdictions around the world. The companies participating in the survey reported exploration spending of US$2.43 billion in 2010 and US$1.86 billion in 2009.

This year, Canadian provinces claimed four of the top 10 spots, with Alberta jumping to first from fourth, Saskatchewan climbing to third from sixth, Quebec falling to fourth from first, and Manitoba holding steady at ninth.

The other provinces and territories generally fared well, with Newfoundland and Labrador placing 13th, the Yukon 15th, Ontario 18th, Nova Scotia 19th, New Brunswick 23rd, British Columbia 36th, Nunavut 44th, and Northwest Territories 52nd.

“BC continues to be viewed poorly, with respondents citing land claims issues, environmental uncertainty, and political turmoil at the provincial level as reasons to remain hesitant about investing in British Columbia,” McMahon said.

Overall, the top 10 jurisdictions are Alberta, Nevada, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Finland, Utah, Sweden, Chile, Manitoba, and Wyoming. Seven of the same jurisdictions ranked among the top 10 last year; the three exceptions are Utah, which rose to sixth place from 15th; Sweden, which climbed to seventh from 12th; and Wyoming, which jumped to 10th from 13th. Chile is the only jurisdiction outside of North America that consistently ranks among the top 10.

The bottom 10 scores went to Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Wisconsin, Madagascar, India, Guatemala, Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela, and Honduras.

Australia generally saw an improvement in its rankings after taking a hard hit in the special Survey of Mining Companies: 2010 Mid-Year Update, following the Australian government’s plan to impose a heavy Resources Super Profits Tax (RSPT) on the mining industry. The new 2011 rankings show South Australia in 11th, Western Australia at 17th, New South Wales ranked 20th, the Northern Territory in 27th, and Queensland at 38th.

“The Australian government has since announced it would back away from the proposed tax, earning a positive reaction and improved rankings from the global mining industry,” McMahon said.

The report also notes that the worldwide economic turnaround has created optimism in the mining industry, with more than three quarters of respondents saying they expect to increase their exploration budgets this year.

“In order to attract investment and compete globally, governments must offer sensible, stable mining policies which, above all, uphold the rule of law and respect negotiated contracts and property rights,” McMahon said.

“Royalty increases and convoluted regulatory schemes create uncertainty in mining, which will only drive mining investment away.”


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