The mineral industry of Newfoundland and Labrador is critical to the economic health of the province. Foreign exports of mining products have been rising in value since the early 1990s and are commonly of greater value than those of forestry, fish or refined petroleum products.
Claim staking and exploration expenditures since 1995 have shown a dramatic increase, prompted by mineral discoveries in Labrador (Voisey's Bay) and oil exploration on the west coast of the island and offshore.
The mineral commodity of greatest importance to the provincial economy is iron ore, mined in the Labrador City area. The province produces 55% of Canada's total, some of which is smelted in Ontario, while the remainder is shipped to Germany, the USA, Britain and Japan.
Wages earned by miners represent 21% of all wages and salaries in the province, an amount proportionally much greater than the number of people involved in the industry. Living standards in Labrador City and Wabush, the largest mining centres, are high compared to many other parts of the province because of high wage levels in the mining industry.
At Hope Brook on the southwest coast, the province's only gold mine was reopened in 1992 and produced gold worth more than $45 million during 1993. Meanwhile mineral exploration companies are actively investigating dozens of other gold and base-metal (copper, lead, zinc) occurrences both on the island and in Labrador.
Structural materials (e.g., building stone, and gravel aggregate for cement) rank third in economic importance. However, this industry is expected to grow steadily, with increasing world recognition of Newfoundland and Labrador's potential for attractive building stone ("dimension stone"). Trial quarrying and intensive marketing of several high-quality rock types have begun, and the response is promising. Quarries are being developed at Nain (anorthosite), Goose Arm and Roddickton (marble), Borney Lake, Lumsden, Seal Cove, Cat Arm, Petites and Topsails (granite), and Nut Cove (slate). Aggregate quarries throughout the province supply local demand and some eastern USA markets.