Northern Manitoba is rich in forests, wildlife, hydroelectricity, fisheries and mineral resources. Tourism and trade are growing. Manitoba’s northern region is a source of wealth for the entire province. Provincial northern development strategies will ensure northern residents benefit from opportunities presented by resource development and by service and tourism industries. This means investing in health, education, housing and transportation. It also means working in partnership with industry, northern towns, communities and First Nations to ensure continued economic development.

Key Industries


The mining and petroleum industries make up the second largest primary resource sector of Manitoba's economy. In 2011, the production value of metals totalled over $1.6 billion, accounting for approximately 3.7 per cent of provincial GDP and about 6.8 per cent of total exports. Metal mining in the North employs about 3,900 people directly and another 12,000 in spin-off jobs. Spending in mineral exploration and deposit appraisals is strong and estimated to have increased 32.3 per cent during 2011 to $111 million. Spending is estimated to be balanced between base and precious metals. Manitoba’s major metal commodities include 11.9 per cent of Canada’s nickel, 10.2 per cent of its copper, 12.7 percent of its zinc, 5.4 per cent of its gold, 6.8 per cent of its silver and 100 per cent of its cesium.


Northern Manitoba’s productive boreal forests support many small forestry operations that harvest wood for kraft paper, lumber and related products. The primary wood product sector generates approximately $900 million in annual sales and directly employs about 5,000 people. The industry exports 75 per cent of its primary wood products. Principle export markets include the United States, China, Europe and Japan.

Commercial Fishing

Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation is the centralized marketing body that buys, processes and markets fish caught under commercial licence in Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Over 80 per cent of the fish caught and processed by the corporation is exported to markets outside Canada. These markets include restaurant chains, supermarket chains and distributors in 20 U.S. states and 14 countries, including France, Germany, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Russia and Iran. The delivered weight for the Manitoba fishery for 2011/12 was 7,893,679 kilograms with a total initial payment of $20,691,585 to fishers. There were 1,352 active fishers during 2011/12. The Communities Economic Development Fund, a provincial Crown corporation, provides financing for over 1,000 commercial fishers annually.


Manitoba Hydro’s extensive infrastructure supports production and delivery of more than 5,000 megawatts of electrical power in the province. The corporation has capital assets in service that originally cost about $13 billion, making it one of the largest energy utilities in Canada. Sales of electricity for 2010/11 were over $1.6 billion with export sales totalling $398 million. Of the export sales income, 84 per cent was from the U.S. and 16 per cent was from sales to other Canadian jurisdictions. Since 2002, hydro export sales have totalled $5.5 billion. The 200-megawatt Wuskwatim generating station, a partnership with Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, began service in 2012. Capital projects under development are worth more than $9 billion. These include the Conawapa and Keeyask generating stations and the Bipole III HVDC transmission project (subject to regulatory approvals). Both Conawapa and Keeyask developments involve partnerships with adjacent First Nations.

Northern Manitoba's Contributions to the Economy

Value of provincial exports for key sectors:

  • Metals - $1.65 billion (2011)
  • Electricity - $398 million (2010/11)
  • Primary Wood Sector - $948.9 million (2010/11)

Capital Investments in Major Northern Manitoba Projects

  • Growth of capital investment in the minerals sector was estimated at 7.8 per cent in 2011, after more than doubling in 2010. Indications show mining companies may boost spending 14.5 per cent to $1.5 billion during 2012. 
  • Manitoba and the federal government are investing over $3.5 million towards constructing the Northern Manitoba Mining Academy in Flin Flon and purchasing two state of the art training simulators.
  • Manitoba has committed $1.125 billion over 15 years towards the East Side Road Initiative, construction of an all-season road network on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. To date, the East Side Road Authority has signed community benefits agreements valued at $86.5 million with the 13 East Side First Nations. The Aboriginal Benefits and Tendering Strategy target is an investment of approximately 35 per cent ($315 million) of construction-related direct costs into local communities.  
  • Manitoba is investing approximately $82 million in partnership with the federal government’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program towards construction of the new 84,000 square-foot Thompson campus of the University College of the North. Investment in renovations to The Pas campus and a new library and child-care facility will total $17.1 million. Another $8 million will be used to upgrade current facilities and construct new facilities at UCN’s 12 regional centres.
  • Manitoba Hydro’s investments include:

    • $1.37 billion for the Wuskwatim generation station
    • $143 million in its transmission system (2010-2011)
    • $124 million in substations
    • $155 million in distribution systems

A Look to the Future

  • Mining will continue to be a significant economic driver with two new mines under construction and a number of other projects that are advancing towards mine development. Forecasting says exploration spending will increase 14 per cent in 2012 to $125.6 million. Ongoing development will extend operations at Flin Flon to 2020 and at Snow Lake to 2030. Vale projects its mining and milling operations near Thompson will continue well beyond 2020.
  • Manitoba’s new Northern Manitoba Mining Academy will provide training to prepare thousands of workers over several generations for mining employment, while the University College of the North will continue to meet the education and training needs of Aboriginal and northern students.
  • Manitoba is working in collaboration with communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg to construct all-season roads that will link 13 isolated First Nation communities to Manitoba’ s provincial road network. 
  • The province has also launched the Northern Manitoba Remote Community Transportation Network Study. It will look at potential routes not already under Manitoba East Side Road Authority consideration as future all-weather roads to remote northern communities. The first phase, gathering baseline data and developing preliminary alternative alignments, is complete.
  • Work to establish a UNESCO World Heritage Site within a large tract of intact boreal forest on the east side of Manitoba continues, while Manitoba’s TomorrowNow plan sets out an eight-year strategic action plan to protect the environment and ensure a prosperous and environmentally conscious economy.
  • The Communities Economic Development Fund has approved more than $100 million in loans to businesses on and off reserves in northern Manitoba, and now has new authority to increase its commercial operations in the North. Additionally, the province has funded and helped create the First Peoples Economic Development Fund and the Metis Economic Development Fund to assist northern entrepreneurs.
  • Manitoba remains committed to continue development of the Port of Churchill, Canada’s only Arctic seaport, and to explore options, including service to our Nunavut neighbours, to increase and diversify trade through the port.