Ontario is Canada’s second-largest province after Quebec. The word Ontario comes from the Iroquois language and means beautiful lake or sparkling water – a perfect name for a region with over 250,000 lakes, rivers and streams.
Ontario is more than one million square kilometers, stretching 1,700 km east to west and north to south at its widest points. Its diverse landscape ranges from lush agriculture areas to the south, to rocky and forested central areas, to northern regions featuring a sub-arctic ecosystem. The province also has a quarter million lakes and countless rivers and streams which hold about one third of the world’s fresh water. The Canadian Shield, a vast area of ancient rock rich in mineral ores such as copper, nickel, and silver, covers nearly two thirds of the province and is also home to an important lumber industry thanks to being largely forested.
Ontario's climate provides warm, often humid weather across much of the province during the summer, moderate temperatures in fall and spring, and cold, snowy winters.
Water played a crucial role in Ontario’s development, providing an essential method of transportation to the province’s interior for First Nations inhabitants and early European settlers, as well as providing an ample food source through fishing. Today, water from sources such as the Great Lakes provides a freshwater drinking supply for most provincial residents, and powers homes and businesses thanks to hydro electric production.
There are 70 million hectares (173 million acres) of forests in Ontario – 2% of the world’s total. The value of goods produced from timber is close to $7 billion annually, consisting of exports of softwood lumber, wood pulp, and newsprint.
Ontario is also one of the world’s top ten mineral producers with an annual production value in mining of approximately $10 billion. It is the leading producer of nickel in Canada, and also mines significant amounts of gold, copper, zinc, platinum, palladium, cobalt and silver from areas across the Canadian Shield. In the south, non-metallic minerals such as salt, lime, talc and gypsum are quarried. The province’s first diamond mine opened in the James Bay region in 2009, producing small but extremely pure stones.