Land and Resources, Natural Resources
Canadian forests, Canadian Arctic Archipelago, hydroelectric energy, Great Plains region, low-lying land
Canada is richly endowed with valuable natural resources that are commercially indispensable to the economy. Most are specific to one region or another; for this reason separate resource-based economies have tended to develop across Canada. The country has enormous areas of fertile, low-lying land in the Prairie provinces and bordering the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Profitable agricultural economies have developed in both of these regions. Canadian forests cover 27 percent of the country’s land area and abound in commercially valuable stands of timber, especially in British Columbia, Quebec, northern Ontario, the northern Prairie provinces, and the Maritimes.
Canada’s extensive mineral resources provide valuable exports and also supply domestic industries. Five of the country’s six major regions contribute to these resources. The Quebec portion of the Appalachian Region has the world’s largest reserves of asbestos, along with deposits of copper and zinc. The Canadian Shield is a rich source of metals such as nickel, copper, gold, uranium, silver, aluminum, and zinc. Minerals from the shield helped fuel the manufacturing development of southern Ontario and Quebec. The Great Plains region is rich in reserves of crude petroleum and natural gas; these are concentrated in the Prairie provinces, particularly in Alberta. These fuel deposits are responsible for the dynamic energy-producing economy of these provinces. The Great Plains region also has deposits of nonfuels, such as potash, gypsum, and salt. The western Canadian Cordillera provides copper, lead, zinc, molybdenum, and asbestos, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago provides zinc and lead. Increasingly important to the mining industry, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago features the world’s northernmost base metal mine, the Polaris mine, on Little Cornwallis Island.
The river and lake systems of the country combine with topography to make hydroelectric energy one of the permanent natural assets of Canada. Here British Columbia and the shield provinces are particularly well endowed. As with other natural resources, much of the energy is exported.
The wildlife of the country is extensive and varied and attracts tourists from around the world, but it is the fish stocks that have the greatest economic value. The cod stocks off the eastern coast provided export revenue and livelihoods for Atlantic Canadians for centuries. Although this fishery was shut down in 1993 because cod stocks were depleted, there have been some signs of recovery and the fishery was partially reopened in 1997. Other edible fish and shellfish are present in Atlantic coastal waters but do not have the commercial value of cod. In the Pacific region, the various salmon species are the most important fish resource, although many other varieties of fish and shellfish are also economically significant. Finally, freshwater fish in Canada’s numerous lakes and rivers are a source of food and revenue for many local communities.
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