Northern Ontario covers approximately 89% of Ontario’s land mass, and is home to around 745,000 people representing 7% of the provincial population, 29% of Ontario’s francophone population, and 43% of the province’s Aboriginal population. Mining continues to drive economic growth in the region, but many opportunities exist for expanding and diversifying all sectors of the economy.

Key Industries


Ontario has been one of the world’s leading mineral producers for more than a century. In 2006, northern Ontario produced approximately $7 billion worth of minerals, with the majority of the value derived from metals. Mining in northern Ontario employs approximately 14,000 people, with an additional estimated 1,800 employed in exploration activities. Northern Ontario is home to 29 of Ontario’s 30 metal mines, 5 of the province’s 15 major industrial mining operations, 14 gem stone mines, and an estimated 400 mining service and supply companies. In 2008 the Victor Diamond Mine will begin production with an estimated $270 million in value produced annually.


The northern Ontario boreal forest accounts for 76 % of the province’s woodland and supports most of Ontario’s forest industry. Northern Ontario is home to 14 of province’s 30 pulp and paper mills and accounts for all of Ontario’s annual market pulp production (approximately 1.9 million tonnes). Northern Ontario also produces approximately 70% of the province’s newsprint (1.2 million tonnes).


Tourism is a significant component of northern Ontario’s economy. In 2004, 9.8 million visitors accounted for $1.7 billion in visitor expenditures in the tourism industry. In that year, the northern Ontario tourism industry sustained close to 17,000 direct jobs and over 3,900 indirect and induced jobs, generating close to $600 million in labour income.


Northern Ontario is more reliant than the rest of Ontario on public sector employment. The educational services, public administration, and health care and social assistance sectors accounted for 29% of the North’s total employment in 2006, compared with 21.5% for the province.

Northern Ontario's Contributions to the Economy

  • Exploration and deposit appraisal expenditures in 2006 of $342 million
  • $1.7 billion in visitor expenditures in northern Ontario in 2004
  • $190 million agricultural industry
  • 80% of Ontario’s farmed fish is produced in the North (estimated value of $13 million)

A Look to the Future

Mining continues to drive economic growth in northern Ontario. Already a global leader in precious and base metal production, the region boasts untapped geological potential that is unequalled in the world. In addition to the variety of mineral resources historically found in northern Ontario, there is considerable exploration interest in searching for diamond, platinum-palladium deposits and in tantalum discoveries. Northern Ontario’s mining industry is also a world leader in mine automation and rehabilitation.

There are significant opportunities to develop value-added processing and manufacturing of raw materials in northern Ontario to enhance the value of products and create additional employment. Such innovative opportunities include the development of special nickel alloys and further processing of traditionally produced metals, the development of processing plants for specialized industrial minerals and the establishment of diamond cutting and related businesses when diamond production begins.

To compete globally, companies are looking toward higher value-added products such as furniture, lumber and paper products, pre-fabricated housing, buildings and components. New construction techniques and a strong housing market across North America have created a big demand for advance building materials from northern Ontario.

Opportunities also exist to export environmental technologies and research and development in silviculture, forest management and stand production. Forest research centres in the North such as Great Lakes Forestry Centre, the Ontario Forest Research Institute and the Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research focus on understanding forest ecosystems and advancing sustainable development.

Northern Ontario’s vast tracts of pristine wilderness, thousands of lakes and diverse landscape position it to take advantage of the growing market in outdoor recreation and tourism experiences.

Northern Ontario is home to a $190 million agricultural industry with strong dairy and beef industries and close to 3,000 farms. Agriculture represents a significant renewable resource for northern Ontario. There is enormous potential for new or expanded agricultural activities in northern Ontario as large areas of agricultural land are not in production. The domestic market for agricultural products is expanding driven by population growth in southern Ontario and export markets.