Canadian Mining Journal


Canada’s Top 40: Outlook improves, but caution advised

A special report takes an in-depth look at how Canada’s Top 40 mining companies area performing

Teck’s Highland Valley Copper mine, in B.C. CREDIT: TECK

The world’s miners took a collective sigh of relief in 2017, as metals and commodity prices rose somewhat. Their days of huge debt are behind them, and they can concentrate on operations.

With fiscal responsibility and better prices, some corporations may be tempted to throw money into capital projects in expectation of higher demand. They might want to hold off for now lest oversupply and debt swamp them again.

Failure to fund exploration can be just as disastrous as over building. Funding either should be balanced to ensure longer term success.

Juniors are still scrambling for funding as they explore what could be the next boost in production capacity. Those that are more easily finding backers are those with interests in cobalt, lithium, or other metals with growth anticipated as the electric vehicle market expands. Precious metals investors are also reasonably easy to find, but base metals and non-metals still lack appeal.

Once again we at CMJ have crunched the numbers every which way, and we are proud to offer our readers a look at Canada’s Top 40 mining companies by revenue.

Top 40

Click here to open the Top 40 table in a new window

Click here to see the table of 10 Runners-up

Stronger metals and commodity prices have lifted most of the winners into the black. There were far fewer companies reporting a net loss for 2017 than there were in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the No. 1 company is Agrium with $18 billion in revenue. Teck Resources moved up one spot to No. 2 with $12 billion, and former No. 2 Barrick Gold slipped one spot to No. 3 with revenue of $11 billion. Suncor Energy’s oilsands business was No. 4 with close to $10 billion.

Click here to see the table of biggest Revenue Gainers

Click here to see the table of companies ranked by Net Earnings

Click here to see table of companies ranked by Assets

Wrapping up the top five is Canadian Natural Resources with $7 billion. That is an upward movement of five places, compared to a year ago as the company doubled its oilsands output.

Readers are aware that Canada’s two powerhouse potash producers – Agrium and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan – have merged. If we add PotashCorp’s sixth place revenue of $4.5 billion to Agrium’s $17.9 billion, the sum is a whopping $22.4 billion – enough to vault the combined company under the name Nutrien to the head of the list.

However, we could not do that this year. The merger did not close until Dec. 31, 2017, meaning that Agrium and PotashCorp reported independently for last year.

Nutrien also filed an annual report, but it did not reflect the revenues of the underlying enterprises. Nutrien’s 2017 annual report had no revenue and a net loss of $596.4 million. Watch for this company to head next year’s Top 40.

TransAlta Utilities reached the No. 20 spot with revenue to $999 million. This number is for the company’s Canadian coal business only. TransAlta was not among the Top 40 last year, but we suspect it should have been had we found the number for its Canadian coal arm.

Click here to see table of Earnings Compared to Revenue

Click here to see table of Revenue Compared to Assets – Part One

– Part Two

Another first-timer to the Top 40 is Trevali Mining which has expanded aggressively. Trevali bought two zinc mines in Africa from Glencore. The move doubled Trevali’s count of producing mines and helped bring in revenue of $429 million, good enough make Trevali No. 33.

Kirkland Lake Gold made the biggest jump up the list – advancing nine places to No. 21 with revenue of $971 million.

All it took was a lot of high grades, and an aggressive exploration and expansion plan. (See separate article in this issue.) Interestingly the majority of the Top 40 miners are primary producers of gold or copper-gold.

A look at how much companies’ revenue grew from 2016 to 2017 reveals that there were only two whose revenue stream shrank, compared to a year earlier when there were 15.

As expected there are always a couple standouts. One this year is Trevali (more than tripled revenue) thanks to the pair of African mines it acquired. The other is Canadian Natural (reporting two-and-ahalf times more revenue) as it completed the phase three work at the Horizon oilsands project.

Kirkland Lake, which led last year’s list with growth of three and a half times for 2016 over 2015, had another respectable increase of 85.3% for 2017 over 2016. First Majestic Silver, Centerra Gold and Golden Star Resources all had revenue increases of roughly 50%, thanks to strong precious metals prices.

Revenues are one thing, but how much of it a company retains as net earnings is another measure of success. Both Canadian Natural Resources and Teck had earnings over $2.5 billion. Barrick ($2 billion) and Suncor’s oilsands operations ($1 billion) had handsome earnings, as well.

Money was tight last year for Canada’s miners, and we could report only four that had larger net earnings in 2016 than in 2015. Looking at 2017 compared to 2016, a total of 16 corporations expanded their net earnings.

Iamgold had the biggest jump – more than eight times. Canadian Natural Resources and Goldcorp saw increases of four-and-a-half and four times, respectively.

Congratulations also to Fortuna Silver, Kirkland Lake, Teck, and Trevali, all of which recorded at least twice the earnings last year.

Comparing net earnings to a company’s revenue, offers some indication of how carefully it controls operating costs.

By that standard, the best is Iamgold (47%), followed by Canadian Natural (37%), Franco-Nevada Corp. (29%) and Fortuna Silver (25%).

The truly mind-boggling numbers come when the assets of mining companies are examined – close to $60 billion for Suncor, over $40 billion for Canadian Natural, $37 billion for Teck, and $33 billion for Barrick.

But it is not necessarily the miners with the most assets that managed to boost the value of their assets in 2017.

Trevali heads this list, close to tripling its assets (remember the two mines it bought), followed by Canadian Natural with a 63% boost (okay, one of the big ones) and Fortuna Silver with 26%. The ranks of the 10-20% gainers has 12 names, and at the bottom of the list is Barrick with year-over-year asset increase of only 0.2%.

When looking at revenue compared to assets in 2017, Kirkland Lake rises to the top again. It generated revenue of $4.3 billion on assets of $3.0 million – or up 145%. This is definitely one of Canada’s top miners by many measures, and high grades and high quality management are likely to keep it in the Top 40 for many years.


To be eligible for CMJ’s Top 40 Canadian miners list companies must meet two of the following three criteria:

1) Be domiciled in Canada.

2) Trade on a Canadian stock exchange

3) Have a significant share of an operating mine or advanced development.

Sometimes we have been tripped up and non-Canadian miners have slipped onto the list. However, we have put extra effort into checking the eligibility of all the miners on the current list.

We remain open to the suggestions of our readers.

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