Nova Scotia Backgrounder

Nova Scotia s natural resources --
redefining traditional industries

When settlers came to Nova Scotia they lived off the bounty of land and the sea. Times change, economies change and Nova Scotia is changing its focus to sustain the traditional resource-based local industries.


While Nova Scotia is the second smallest province in Canada, it is ranked fifth in the production of pulp and paper, and sixth in sawn products. More than 80% of the province s land is covered by forest. The province s forest resources support a well-developed and varied industry which includes three pulp and/or paper mills, one hardboard mill, and several hundred sawmills. The industry is one of the province s significant employers. Many of the Christmas trees grown in Nova Scotia find their way into American and European homes each year. The most famous is a five-storey-high tree presented to the City of Boston by the Province of Nova Scotia each year as a continuing acknowledgement of the help given by the people of Boston following the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Nova Scotia maple trees also yield over 118,182 litres (26,000 gallons) of maple syrup for market each year. Unlike most Canadian provinces, where Crown ownership may exceed 90% of the forest land, Nova Scotia s woodlands are mostly privately owned. Nova Scotia is a signatory to the Canada Forest Accord, a national commitment to sustainable forestry. The Nova Scotia Forest Accord, signed by the provincial government and some 20 private sector forestry groups in 1994, will ensure responsible management of the province s forests.


Nova Scotia leads Canada in fishery-based activity and the industry is still the main employer in many regions of the province. Many species are harvested, the most lucrative being shellfish, particularly lobster, scallop and crab. Shellfish account for nearly half the value of total fish landed. A large percentage of lobster harvested in Nova Scotia is destined for tables in Europe. Cod, pollock and other groundfish are also important. But to protect and help rebuild dwindling stocks, groundfish quotas have been reduced and some fishing areas have been closed to harvesting. Aquaculture offers new opportunities for expansion in the fishery and Nova Scotia companies currently produce salmon, trout, mussels, scallops and oysters this way.

Government programs are helping industry take full advantage of new technology and new developments, such as the farming of halibut, flounder, quahogs and eels. Sport fishing is becoming increasingly important in many coastal and rural communities both commercially and as a tourism feature. Many large bluefin tuna caught off the coast of Nova Scotia are sold to Japan where they are highly prized for the sushi market.


Nova Scotia has a highly specialized commercial agriculture industry with dairy, horticultural, poultry, beef cattle and hog products as the most significant sectors. Nursery products, flowers, tobacco, grapes, fur and sheep are also significant products on a smaller scale. Nova Scotia exports agri-food products to over 60 countries, as well as across Canada. Top export commodities are frozen fruit, berries and horticultural crops, which account for $24 million, or 53% of the export total.

Mineral and energy resources

Nova Scotia s varied mineral and energy resources and their related manufacturing provide a substantial input to the province s economy. The most valuable commodity is thermal and metallurgical coal. Also important are salt, gypsum (Nova Scotia produces 70% of Canada s gypsum), limestone, dolomite, silica sand and clay. More than 60 aggregate operations produce crushed rock, sand and gravel. Many high-grade gypsum, limestone and aggregate resources are ideally located for bulk shipment. Reserves of lead, zinc and tin are well established, and many areas of gold potential have been identified.

Oil and gas exploration companies have worked actively in the area both on and offshore for a number of years. More than 120 offshore wells have been drilled since 1967, resulting in substantial reserves of oil concentrated in the area of Sable Island. Two small offshore oil fields, known as Cohasset and Panuke, were brought into production in 1992. Yielding approximately 20,989 cubic feet (6,397 cubic metres) a day, they are the first to produce in the east coast offshore area. The Sable Island area has natural gas reserves of one trillion cubic feet.

Opened in 1984, the 20 megawatt Annapolis tidal power plant harnesses the Bay of Fundy tides and stands as a fine example of renewable energy resources. Other examples in Nova Scotia include biomass, hydro, solar and wind energy. With its varied geology, trained workforce, geographic location and history of mineral and energy development, Nova Scotia remains a prime location for the development of mineral resources and energy-related projects.


Forest resources: 9.2 million acres (3.7 million ha)
Forest employment: 6,000 direct jobs, 13,000 indirect
Annual value of forest-related shipments: $700 million
Annual harvest: 2.0 million cords (4.3 million m)
Christmas trees shipped: 1.7 million annually
Fishery landed value: $450 million
Fishery market value: $800 million
Sport fishing value: $68 million
Agriculture farm gate value: $350 million
Agriculture employment: 7,000
Coal production: 3.2 million tonnes