Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Northern Administration District is roughly 50% of the province and is home to about 36,000 people, less than 4% of the province’s population. The majority of the people are of Aboriginal heritage with ties to their traditional culture and lifestyles.

In contrast to the fields and prairie of southern Saskatchewan, the North is a land of forests, pristine lakes, and the boreal shield.  Mining and mineral exploration continue to be economic drivers in the region and opportunities exist to diversify and expand the economy. As well, Saskatchewan’s largely undeveloped North offers many tourism opportunities, including Aboriginal culture experiences and outdoor adventures, such as world class hunting and fishing. Northern Saskatchewan is the cornerstone of a well-established Saskatchewan outfitting industry which generates nearly $100 million in traveler expenditures each year.

The Government of Saskatchewan is helping to build the region's economic growth capacity by investing in training and by helping to stimulate activity in the region’s world class mineral industry.  With an emphasis on responsive and responsible government, the Province is building on its economic strengths to make the North a great place to live, to work, and to raise a family.

Key Industries

Mining and Exploration

The Athabasca Basin in Northern Saskatchewan contains the largest high grade uranium deposits in the world.  Three uranium mines located in the Basin account for all of Canada’s and about 17% of the world’s uranium production – making northern Saskatchewan the second largest uranium producing region in the world.  A fourth uranium mine is nearing start of production and a fifth is seeking regulatory approvals; feasibility assessments on several other significant uranium deposits are being advanced.

In gold mining, a new mine recently began production while another mine celebrated its 20th year of continuous production and the pouring of its millionth ounce.  Rare earth elements, base metals, oil sands and graphite deposits all hold potential, as well, for future mines in the region.

In 2011, northern Saskatchewan’s mine sites (companies and contractors) employed an average of 3700 direct and contract employees. The industry is a Canadian leader in employment both of local workers and of Aboriginal people, with 47% of all mine site workers recruited from northern Saskatchewan communities and 42% of all workers being of Aboriginal heritage.  Mining in northern Saskatchewan contributed $1.4 billion to the provincial economy in wages, and goods and services purchases in 2011, of which approximately 75% was sourced in Saskatchewan and 40% in northern Saskatchewan.

Exploration for new mineral discoveries remains near all time highs.  In 2011, mineral exploration expenditures in northern Saskatchewan were $125 million, below the peak in 2007 but still well above historic levels.  Since 2001, it is estimated that over $1.1 billion has been spent on mineral exploration in the north, compared to $414 million during the previous 20 years. The interest in northern Saskatchewan’s mining and exploration industry is expected to stay high due to the region’s diverse geology, its proven world-class deposits, and continued world demand.

Business and Human Services

Education and health services and the public sector – in both provincial and First Nations jurisdictions – accounted for 44% of northern employment in 2006.   The region has four hospitals and is the headquarters of two major post-secondary institutes that are distinctive for their partnership approaches: Northern Teacher Education Program/Northern Professional Access College (NORTEP/NORPAC) offers university programs accredited by Universities of Saskatchewan, Regina, and the First Nations University of Canada; and Northlands College has led a number of community and sectoral multi-party training initiatives.

In the private sector, a skilled and competitive mine service sector has developed and grown over the past two decades. Northern companies – many of them Aboriginal-owned - now provide the majority of catering, trucking, underground mining, construction, air charter, and exploration services.  The mine service sector is now a significant part of the northern economy, employing over 800 northerners. In 2011, 41% of goods and services purchased by northern mine sites –$481 million - went to northern businesses and joint ventures. Over the past 20 years, northern Saskatchewan businesses and joint ventures earned $3.5 billion supplying goods and services to northern mine operations.

Tourism

In addition to world-class trophy fishing and hunting, Northern Saskatchewan offers many other tourism opportunities and experiences including canoeing, house boating, golf, horseback riding, sight-seeing (internationally-recognized Athabasca Sand Dunes, Nistowiak Falls) and more. These Northern Saskatchewan outdoor adventures are enjoyed by more than 1 million visitors each year; 627,000 of which are for stays in the northern area for one or more nights. Tourism and traveler expenditures in Northern Saskatchewan (including the Prince Albert area) totaled about $172 million in 2010, and are projected to grow by about 5% annually for the next few years. Tourism-related businesses provide a major source of employment in Northern Saskatchewan.  In 2010, almost 3,600 workers were employed in northern restaurants, beverage rooms, resorts, attractions, outfitting lodges and hotels.

Forestry and Traditional Resource Harvesting

Forestry is a significant contributor to the Saskatchewan economy, and a major source of employment in Northern Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s forest industry is undergoing a major transformation in the wake of the economic downturn and is poised, once again, to contribute toward the diversification and strengthening of the northern economy.

Saskatchewan has 11 large forest product manufacturing facilities. When all mills are operating they account for nearly 5000 direct jobs and over $1.3 billion in annual forest products sales.

Several hundred Aboriginal people are employed in Saskatchewan’s forestry sector, the second largest saw mill in the Province is 100 per cent First Nations owned, and many Aboriginal people have forestry contracting businesses harvesting timber and conducting related activities such as road construction, trucking and reforestation.

Many northerners preserve their connections to their Aboriginal culture and traditional lifestyles through commercial fishing and fur trapping, but fewer are relying on such traditional industries for the majority of their incomes.  Instead, many are now pursuing higher paying, higher-skilled, year-round jobs in the mining and service sectors, and participating in primary production industries such as fishing, trapping, or harvesting wild rice and mushrooms on incidental bases.

Saskatchewan’s commercial fishing industry is also undergoing a major transition as its shifts, in 2012, to an open market operation from more than 40 years reliance on the monopoly processing and marketing of landings.  In 2011, the value of Saskatchewan commercially-harvested fish sold to the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg was just over $2.75 million. Through its umbrella federation, some 30 local fisheries co-operatives, representing some 400 – 500 active fishers, continue to look for ways to increase the returns from their landings, including through value-added local processing and the direct marketing of their sustainable harvests.

Approximately 1700 trappers purchased licences in Saskatchewan’s North in 2011, harvesting more than 20,000 pelts with a value of just over $800,000.  In recent years, northern Saskatchewan trappers have formed a co-operative to explore new marketing opportunities for their pelts. By diversifying their potential client-base, trappers hope to be able to better withstand the volatility that traditionally pervades the international fur market.

Capital Investments of Major Projects in Northern Saskatchewan

In 2012, major projects by various levels of government in northern Saskatchewan in the planning, design, or construction phase were estimated to be worth $178 million, adding to the almost $2.65 billion in new projects underway in the northern mining sector.

A Look to the Future

Energy generation will be one of the world's major challenges and nuclear power generation is anticipated to continue to play a key role in future global power supply. Northern Saskatchewan will have a significant role in helping to meet future world energy demands.  Uranium production, for example, is expected to increase significantly from 2013 onward as new and expanded operations double production.

Currently, four small hydroelectric generating stations are located in northern Saskatchewan with a total capacity of 124MW.  They produce about 15% of the province’s total hydroelectric power.  The potential for more northern hydroelectric power projects, through partnerships with different First Nations’ interests, is under active investigation, with the potential to create significant benefits for northern communities in terms of jobs, training and other benefits.   Additional opportunities may also exist for northern communities if transmission line reinforcement projects are developed in the north.

With the continued re-emergence of forest product markets, the forest industry will continue to expand in Northern Saskatchewan, which will result in further economic development and employment opportunities for Northern people.

The province continues to work with northern Saskatchewan’s commercial fishing sector to assist its efforts to broaden its processing and marketing opportunities.

In support of tourism development, the province works with Tourism Saskatchewan, the Northern Tourism Region and stakeholders to develop community destination plans, and to coordinate tourism development, marketing, and training initiatives.

Although Northerners will always have a strong connection to the land and cultural pursuits as part of their lifestyle, there is a trend for more and more young people to go on to post-secondary education, with an eye on careers in the education and health professions, or highly-skilled mine jobs and related mine services’ sectors.