Mining Skills Shortage Becomes Pressing

Mining companies such as Barrick Gold Corp. are struggling to fill vacancies amid a skills shortage that stretches from the iron-ore pits of Western Australia to Chile’s copper mines magnetic separator and the gold deposits of Quebec. Producers of commodities including gold, copper and coal are building mines to feed demand from countries like China just as geologists, engineers and miners begin to retire en masse, pushing up wages and crimping productivity.

Lost Generation

Enrollment in mining graduate programs slumped in the 1980s and 1990s after commodity prices fell and hiring stalled. The sector also lost people to the technology boom from 1999 to 2001, said Aaron Regent, chief executive officer of Barrick, the world’s biggest gold-mining company by revenue.

“At that point we were basically in a depression as an industry; we were an irrelevant industry,” Regent said in an interview. “So we lost a generation of people.”

About 61,550 to 71,740 mining workers in Canada, or more than a third of the industry, may retire in the next 10 years, according to forecasts by the Mining Industry Human Resources Council.

The council estimates Canada’s mining industry will need about 141,540 new hires until 2021 if activity continues to accelerate. Even if growth slows and hiring recedes, the sector will have to find 112,020 new workers to replace retirees and other departures in the next 10 years, according to council estimates.

Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM), based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and the world’s second-largest gold miner by revenue, expects about 500 mine engineers will retire in the next five to 10 years, Chief Executive Officer Richard O’Brien said in a Bloomberg Television interview March 27. The company currently has about 650 mine engineering positions.

All Levels

“We could hire every mining graduate in America and we couldn’t replace them,” O’Brien said. “Whether it’s northern Nevada, Australia, Ghana, Indonesia, we are looking for people at all levels of employment.” hammer crusher:http://www.china-mills.com/p2.html
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Wages have risen with demand. In Canada, average weekly wages for workers in the mining, quarrying, oil and gas industries, the country’s highest paid industry, rose 8.2 percent to C$1,842.59 ($1,846.28) in January from a year ago, according to Statistics Canada. That compares with a national average of C$888.89, which was 2 percent higher than a year earlier.

Demand for mining-related construction is poised to surge over the next two years but could be held back by a lack of skilled workers, according to a survey.

It forecasts a 14.7 per cent rise in the total value of engineering and commercial construction this year, driven by oil and gas processing and heavy industrial projects.

Released today by the Australian Industry Group and Australian Constructors Association (ACA), the construction outlook survey also predicts a further rise of 13.8 per cent in 2013.

Engineering construction turnover is set to rise by 17.1 per cent this year and 15.4 in the next, while the total value of commercial construction is expected to rise by 6.1 per cent and then 7.2.

However, this growth could be offset by an expected continuance of skill shortages.

Around 70 per cent of businesses predict they’ll find it difficult to hire skilled staff over the next six months.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said that engineering construction in the mining sector is “bursting at the seams, with skill shortages widely anticipated and rising expectations of shortages of raw materials and equipment.”

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