Forging a career in mining: Mining Industry update, 2014
Mining has grown bigger over the past 200 years – bigger plants, bigger trucks, and even bigger blasts. The global mining industry remains positive for growth and the industry’s demand for skilled people remains on an upward trend.
Areas of growth
For starters, the stability of the industry is a strong incentive. Unlike the hard economic times currently troubling other industries, the mining industry is experiencing rapid growth and prosperity. This means tremendous career opportunities in all aspects of exploration, development, operations, and site reclamation.
Skills most in demand are in the skilled trades and the production occupations. High demand remains for highly skilled tradespeople with focus on heavy equipment operators, heavy equipment mechanics, welders, electricians, pipe fitters.
Research undertaken by Jody Elliott Consulting has indicated that the mining industries of South Africa, Canada, United States and South America have charted significant growth plans, and will need more than 250,000 new workers by 2017.
There is also a major skills shortage in the mine planning disciplines and geotechnical area – geotechnical engineers, civil engineers, and ground water hydro-geologists. These skills are being sought by mining companies to address two ongoing issues: mine waste management and mine closure planning.
Advisory firm Deloitte says that implementing new technology including automation, using analytics to identify trends, rationalising supply chains, right-sizing capital projects and transitioning to modular plants and projects are all strategies to drive continuous improvements. Most companies in the mining industry are dashing to streamline operations as mineral deposits are discovered in more remote and adverse locations – some of them only accessible by air. This is an advantage for employees as they command higher wages for such operations.
Typical salary range
|Role||Experience||Salary in USD|
|New Graduate Mine Engineer||1 to 3 years||60,000 to 85,000|
|Junior Mine Engineer||3 to 5 years||65,000 to 100,000|
|Mine Engineer||5 to 8 years||70,000 to 110,000|
|Senior Mine Engineer||10 to 15 years||80,000 to 125,000|
|Chief Mine Engineer||15+ years||90,000 to 140,000|
The job roles which are hardest to fill are highly skilled occupations – engineers and geoscientists. Companies find it staggeringly difficult to find a mining engineer with 10 to 15 years of experience and are willing to pay a premium for such profiles.
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Charting a career path
There are over 150 different career paths to choose from, in mining. This is good news for those wanting to break into the industry, as the sector is opening employment opportunities to foreign professionals and technicians.
- Geoscience offers challenging careers in exploring unchartered regions of the remote outback, working in world-class facilities, and using cutting-edge technology with vastly improved efficiency and safety of mining operations.
- Engineers play a crucial role and are in high demand in the mining industry. With opportunities as diverse as the industry itself, engineers are also some of the highest paid employees.
- Mine engineers are typically required to have a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Mine or Mineral Engineering, or a closely related discipline.
People who gain entry into the industry most quickly are those prepared to relocate to the regional mining centres. But it’s not just the salary you should consider; be aware of some of the less glamorous aspects of work in the mining industry – such as working in remote locations and being away from friends and family for weeks at a time.
Besides working for mining companies, consider opportunities to work for companies such as independent mining consultants, engineering firms, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, audit and legal, and many more.
To make things easier, companies are keeping employees engaged through programs like ﬂexable rosters, training and long-term career development.
Locations to target
Based on input from 690 mineral exploration and development companies, Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2013 has found Sweden, Finland and Alberta (Canada) the most attractive regions for mining jobs in 2014.
Others on the Top 10 list are:
- Western Australia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland & Labrador
Data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics in the United States showed mining among the top ‘recession-proof’ fields which expanded during the past 5 years. Jobs expanded in mining, oil and natural gas industries by 60%, creating a total of 500,000 new jobs. Nor is this expansion showing signs of slowing down. Over the next year, according to one recent industry-funded study, oil and gas could create an additional 1.5 million new jobs. The quality of these jobs is far higher than that in other industries, and the average job pays about $100,000 annually.
Canada’s mining industry has come a long way since the discovery of coal on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, nearly 350 years ago. There are now approximately 800 mining operations in Canada, producing more than 60 minerals and metals. They contribute nearly 5% to the country’s GDP, and 19% of their total exports.
At present, there is an estimated US $145 billion of new mining programs in Canada currently undergoing assessment and permit phase. Even if a small fraction of those mines become productive, they significantly impact the increase in demand for people to work in the mining sector. Mining is one of the highest paying industrial sectors in Canada. The industry will need thousands of additional workers per year up to the year 2016.
Mining Industry Human Resources Council executive director Ryan Montpellier has forecast: “Over course of the next ten years, the Canadian mining sector will need to hire about 145,000 new people to meet the needs of our sector and most of that is replacement demand; to replace people who are leaving due to retirement or leaving to go and work in other parts of the country or other industries.”
|Career salary range||$CAD per annum|
|Chief Engineer||$94,000 to $140,000|
|Metallurgical / Process Engineer||$70,000 to $105,000|
|Underground Miner||$52,000 to $100,000|
|Superintendent of Environmental Services||$87,000 to $127,000|
|Maintenance Foreman (mine or plant)||$74,000 to $109,000|
|Mine Geologist||$69,000 to $88,000|
|New grad Eng-Mine (undergraduate degree)||$58,000 to $83,000|
|Plant Technologist||$50,000 to $70,000|
|Inventory Analyst||$51,000 to $70,000|
|Geological Modeler||$55,000 to $60,000|
In Canada, to practice engineering as a professional engineer, you need to hold a P.Eng. license in the province or territory where it was granted.
Mining is one of Australia’s largest and most dynamic industries. The Australian exploration and mining of minerals (including coal) is one of their most important industries and provides direct and indirect benefits to all Australians. In 2014, mines in Australia are continuing to face skills shortage for high quality technically trained people. Australia is the leading producer in the world of bauxite, alumina, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, synthetic rutile and tantalum, and the second largest producer of gold, iron ore, lead, uranium, diamonds and zinc.
Mining in the Middle East typically takes the form of drilling for oil and gas. Oil has long been the mainstay of the UAE’s economy and current estimates say the country has oil supplies to last at least another 100 years. Oil production accounts for almost a third of UAE’s GDP, with Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras al-Khaimah all involved in oil production to some extent. Abu Dhabi specifically has crude reserves of 92.2 billion barrels or just under 10% of the world’s total. At 212 trillion cubic feet, the UAE is also home to the fourth largest gas reserves in the world. Abu Dhabi controls 92% of this reserve, with Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras al-Khaimah in charge of the rest. Recently, Abu Dhabi started a multi-billion-dollar program, part of which is the Dolphin gas project which will ship gas from Qatar’s North Field to the UAE (principally Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Oman, and eventually to Pakistan. In addition to oil and gas, other resources currently mined in the Middle East include gold, copper, iron ore and phosphate, but deposits are small, and oil and gas remains the major source of employment in this sector.
Current job roles in demand in this sector are:
- Contract engineers
- Site quality engineers
- Technical safety engineers
- Process engineers
- Piping engineers
- Electrical engineers
- Construction superintendents
A report by Port Jackson Partners found that Australia is losing its competitive advantage over emerging miners in Africa, Asia and South America. According to the report, Chinese and Indian producers have an estimated 60 – 80% cost advantage in minerals processing compared to their Australian counterparts.
Oyu Tolgoi (OT) mine in Mongolia has one of the world’s largest gold and copper deposits. Increase in mining over the past couple of years has jumpstarted exploration and plant development in the region. So much so that this landlocked country, with a population of only 3 million, had the fastest growing economy in the world last year.
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Women in mining
Women are highly regarded in speciality areas such as environmental sciences and in some countries are preferred over men to operate equipment such as dump trucks, as they tend to be easier on the equipment. Yet, the mining industry worldwide is labouring to improve its appeal to women.
In Canada, they are hiring more and more women, not just in administrative or human resources or coordinator roles. Women are taking up roles underground, operating equipment, in the trades; chiefly, in engineering, geosciences and management. In Australia, the industry is to increase women employees from the current 14% to 25% by 2020. Many companies offer women incentives such as extended day care to allow them to work longer shifts and job sharing to help facilitate women staying on in the industry.
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