The annual survey attempts to assess how mineral endowments and policy factors such as taxation or regulatory uncertainty affect exploration investment, ranking the top mining jurisdictions according to investors. Based on 276 responses collected between August and November 2020, the Fraser Institute has ranked provinces, states, and countries based on the extent that policy factors and mineral potential encourage or discourage investment in the region’s resources.

The 2020 iteration of the survey evaluated a total of 77 jurisdictions around the world, ranking them according to an Investment Attractiveness Index, which was calculated by combining measurements of a region’s geological attractiveness with the effects of government policy on attitudes towards exploration investment.

Respondents to the survey indicated that approximately 40% of their investment decision is determined by policy factors – putting the onus on governments to legislate favourable environments if they want to stimulate foreign investment in mining.

The top mining jurisdictions

Nevada moved up from third place in 2019 to take the mantle of most attractive mining jurisdiction in this year’s survey, with neighbouring Arizona taking second place compared to ninth the previous year. Canadian province Saskatchewan took the third spot, with former top jurisdiction Western Australia dropping down to fourth place.

The top two regions being in the US is compounded by the country’s median investment attractiveness score increasing by three points over the previous year, making the US as a whole the third most attractive country for mining investment behind Canada and Australia.

Ranked on policy factors alone, the US is the top ranked jurisdiction and six states ranked in the global top 10 for attractive policy environments. The findings suggest that the limitation on the US resources sector from being viewed more favourably by mining companies is mineral potential in the country, rather than the political environment.

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All regions in the US saw their overall policy perception scores increase this year, with the exception of Colorado. Here, respondents expressed increased concern over labour regulations and employment agreements, uncertainty regarding the enforcement of existing regulations, and concern over its taxation policies.

North of the border in Canada, the median policy perception score fell by one this year and just two Canadian jurisdictions – Saskatchewan and Newfoundland & Labrador – rank in the global top 10 on policy environments.

There were, however, significant rises in investors’ perceptions of mineral potential in Canadian provinces. In Saskatchewan, Canada’s most attractive province, respondents were less concerned over taxation, regulatory inconsistencies, and trade barriers compared to previous surveys.

The bottom mining jurisdictions

Considering both policy and mineral potential, Venezuela was ranked the least attractive region for investment, replacing Tanzania, which fell to third. Argentina’s Chubut province takes the mantle of second least attractive mining region.

Despite Argentinian jurisdictions on the whole improving compared to previous surveys, there is still room for improvement – the provinces of Chubut, La Rioja, and Mendoza are all in the bottom 10 jurisdictions globally. Venezuela, meanwhile, enters its 10th year as the least attractive region from a pure policy standpoint, as political and economic uncertainty in the country continues.

Asian jurisdictions were not included in this year’s survey as no jurisdiction garnered sufficient responses to be included. Europe saw a steep decline, displaced from its previous position as the top ranked continent – the median investment attractiveness score for Europe decreased by 10 points compared to 2019 results.

Of European countries, only Finland ranked in the global top 10 for investment attractiveness – but investors expressed increasing concerns over its taxation regime, regulatory inconsistencies, and land disputes.