What’s Happened To Australia’s Mining Engineers?

One of the world's largest mining economies is facing an unprecedented crisis! It's called "Find a mining engineer".

During the last resources boom the Australian mining industry could count on around 300 new mining engineering graduates a year graduating from the country's mining engineering courses. And even then there was still a reasonable demand for overseas talent to make up the shortfall. After the end of the last boom the number of enrolments began dropping off, as is to be expected when demand drops. Typically numbers then begin to pick up again once indicators of the next boom start to appear. The problem this time though is this just isn't happening and the industry is worried. Very worried!

Currently the number of mining engineering students graduating annually across the country stands at around 200, which is acceptable coming out of a bust period *. It's also a legacy of reasonable albeit shrinking enrolments over the last few years. However these enrolment numbers, instead of picking up like they should be with another boom looming, are continuing to shrink like never before! Therefore, if this current trend continues the industry could be looking at a mere 50 mining engineering graduates per year across all institutions by early to mid next decade. That's right about the time when demand for these professionals is going to be really ramping up.

Some institutions have been hit harder than others. The University of NSW for instance just a few years ago had over 100 enrolments in its mining engineering course annually. This year (2018) there are just 6! Not only does this portend some grim times ahead for the industry but it also begs the question – for how long can universities continue to run a full degree course for just 6 students? And once universities start dropping courses (which is happening already) the industry enters that downward spiral of not enough courses means fewer students and fewer students means fewer courses. 

Why Students Aren't Choosing A Career In Mining 

We've touched on the subject of why school leavers are not choosing career paths in mining in previous posts. It's due in part to the bad rap mining has these days. With the industry's traditional boom and bust cycles and subsequent staff layoffs, it isn't seen as a particularly stable long-term career choice. There are also issues with its environmental and social responsibility image. In other words, choosing a career in the mining industry simply isn't seen as a 'cool' thing to do for many of today's up and coming professionals. Combine this with working on remote sites a long way from home and modern amenities, long FIFO shifts and so on, and you begin to understand just why today's techno whizz kids would prefer to be working in Silicon Valley rather than Kathleen Valley (a gold mine about 50 kms north of Leinster in remote Western Australia).

In another article I described how primary motivators for career choices are changing. Where once the lucrative salaries on offer for even first year mining engineering graduates was a substantial lure, it's simply not enough for today's future professionals. For a number of reasons, which are explained in the aforementioned article. Today's students are looking for more than just money; they want a whole host of other things and unfortunately they simply don't believe they're going to get those by choosing a career in mining.

It isn't just mining engineering though that is feeling the pinch. Most mining professions in Australia are in danger of becoming seriously understaffed. From geologists to metallurgists, geophysicists and even surveyors – enrolment numbers are not keeping up with the demands of the industry. And the implications overall are huge – imagine firstly trying to find a mineable ore body and then design and run a mine to extract that ore body without any of these professionals!

The Australian Mining Industry Matters On A Global Scale

As an indication of just how important the Australian mining industry is to the world – a March 2018 Australian Government media release indicates that the country currently has the largest known reserves of commodities like iron ore, gold and lithium in the world. It's also currently one of the largest producers of these commodities. In fact, Australia has the largest proven reserves of 9 highly significant commodities and is the largest producer of 5 of these commodities.

What is the significance of these minerals to the world? My blog post on the topic of a world without mining explains just how important these and many other minerals are to our world and our way of life. I could just as easily have titled that post "A World Without Australian Mining" such is the importance of the country's mining industry to the world in general. And not just for mineral production either. Australia is leading the way with innovation like smart mines and automated mining equipment, and also exports many mining services globally as well.

A world without Australia's mining industry would be a vastly different place. Therefore, the lack of new mining talent coming up through the ranks there is a global concern. It's also a problem many other countries face too incidentally. For the short term the situation in our big mining economies can be partially addressed by hiring qualified mining personnel from other countries like the UK. Long term the solutions need to come from within those countries themselves however.

If you're looking for qualified mining personnel, particularly mining engineers, contact Mining International as we have recent mine engineering graduates actively looking for overseas positions. 

Contact us NOW on +44 207 859 4442 or +44 7407 380533 to discuss your requirements.
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