Canada is the third largest copper producer in the world, after Chile and the USA. Canada produced 534,287 t of copper concentrate in 2003, representing a continuing decrease as a result of several mine suspensions and closures. Most of Canada's copper production comes from mines in Ontario, British Colombia and Quebec.
The production of copper in Canada is associated with the production of other metals (and sulphuric acid). There is no Canadian copper mine whose revenue from its domestic operations is derived entirely from copper. Most of Canada’s base metals are hosted by massive sulphide sources (e.g. the Sudbury complex) as well as porphyry deposits (e.g. the Highlands Valley Porphyry). In most cases copper is produced as a co product with nickel, zinc, lead and gold. A small number of producers, including Zstrata, Vale, Teck Cominco, Boliden and Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting, dominate base metal production in Canada.
Xstrata produces significant amounts of copper from four lead – zinc – silver mining operations in New Brunswick and Quebec. The Louvicourt mine located at Val d'Or in Quebec is one of the lowest cost underground producers in Northern America. The Louvicourt mine has remaining proven and probable reserves estimated at 7.5 Mt grading 3.3% copper, 1.8% zinc, 28. g/t silver and 0.9 g/t gold. The mine is owned by Aur Resources (30%), Teck Cominco (25%) and Novicourt Inc.(45%). Xstrata produces nickel and copper at its world class nickel copper deposits at Sudbury, Raglan and Kidds Creek. Sudbury division is comprised of five underground mines. The Onaping – Craig mine produce 42% of Sudbury’s output. Sudbury Division has estimated proven and probable reserves of 23.5 Mt grading at an average of 1.55% nickel and 1.33% copper. The Raglan mine is situated west of Kangiqsujuaq in the Ungava Peninsula, Quebec. Raglan was officially opened in 1998 and has proven and probable reserves estimated at 19 Mt grading at an average 2.85% nickel and 0.77% copper. The Kidds Creek division comprises three mines of which the No 1 mine produces more than 50%. Depending on metal prices, production from the Kidds Creek mines is set to decline gradually over the following years due to increasing depth of operations
Teck Cominco is one of the world’s largest zinc producers. Teck Cominco operates several base metal mines across Canada, including the world’s most northerly mine, Polaris, at Little Cornwallis Island, Nunavut. At the end of 1998, Polaris had proven and probable reserves estimated at 3 Mt grading at 12.8% zinc and 3.3% lead. The famous Sullivan mine in British Colombia, once Canada’s largest lead producer has a few years of operation left before closing.
Boliden acquired the Myra Falls underground zinc copper mines on Vancouver Island, British Colombia in 1998. Myra Falls produced 52 000t zinc, 15 000 t copper, 21 500 oz gold and 0.5 Moz silver. The mine has estimated proven and probable reserves of over 6.7 Mt grading at an average of 7.7% zinc, 1.5% copper, 0.4 % lead, 1.4 g/t gold and 35 g/t silver.
Canada’s largest base metal mine, Highlands Valley, is located 75 km southwest of Kamloops, in central British Columbia. Highlands Valley Copper is owned by Teck Cominco (64% interest) and Billiton Base Metals (33.6%), and Highmont 2.5%. The mine has remaining proven and probable reserves of 417 Mt grading at 0.42% copper.
Vale supplies approximately 26% of the world’s nickel requirements. It also produces copper, gold and cobalt as a by product. Vale has mining centres at Sudbury and at its Manitoba divisions. Sudbury consists of four mines, while the Manitoba division has two mines. Efforts to bring the world famous Voisey’s Bay nickel copper cobalt mine into production have failed, with Vale and the Newfoundland provincial government failing to agree on issues concerning the location of smelter facilities. Voisey’s Bay has total resources estimated at 124 Mt.
The Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American and operates several mines in Manitoba. Of note are the two new developing mines, Chisel North and the 777 project.
A relative junior to the base metal scene in Canada is Breakwater Resources, which has acquired two of Camber’s mine’s for $48 million. Breakwater now has three base metal mines, two in Quebec (the Bouchard Hebert and Langlois mines).
Imperial Metals Corporation produces copper and molybdenum from the Huckleberry mine located in British Columbia.