Mining Sector Human Resource Needs Remain Strong Despite Downturn

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

The mining industry´s need for a large infusion of skilled workers over the next decade may be curbed by current economic circumstances but it will not be eliminated.  In a presentation for the Mining Association of Canada, Ryan Montpellier, Executive Director of the Mining Industry Human Resource Council (MiHR), laid out several scenarios on the sector´s workforce needs looking out to 2016. 

Local, provincial, national and international forces all impact projections of mining´s human resource needs in Canada.  When you look at the massive alterations which have been occurring in global financial systems and the downturn in commodity markets, it is all too apparent that the impact of changing macro economic variables influence the human resource requirements of the industry.  In earlier studies, MiHR projected that the industry in Canada needed 80,000 new workers over the next 10 years.  As the world demand for Canada´s mineral products grew, the number of new employees needed in Canada´s mining sector from 2007 to 2016 was increased to 92,000.  That level still may be required.

However, in offering alternatives, MiHR presented a no-growth scenario for the future.  In this case, the need for retirement and non-retirement replacement requirements still showed a need for more than 62,000 new mining employees out to 2016 — or more than 6,200 per year.   In a more negative projection of industry contraction over a four year period, there still was a demand for more than 46,000 new mining employees out to 2016 — or more than 4,600 per year.  Because of the demographics of the national mining workforce, which has a high portion of older workers, projections for the replacement of retiring workers and workers switching careers remains strong.   Ontario represents about one-third of the national mining industry. 

MiHR´s labour market information indicates corporate, association and collective efforts to better inform young people about careers in the mining industry need to be strengthened.  All facets of the sector need to do more to generate interest in the sector and to attract new skilled workers to mining.  Employers, job seekers, training and educational institutions and governments formulating programs and policies all need to know that current economic factors will likely only slow the demand for new mine employees.

Leading economic forecasters are saying many conditions are in place already to provide a foundation for an upturn in commodity markets.  After all, with the difficulty in raising capital, there is less exploration work going on and few new projects being developed to increase supply of a variety of minerals.  Cutbacks and shutdowns will squeeze supply even more.  Almost inevitably all economic prognostications resort back to supply and demand. 

Demand for minerals is destined to increase.  As of today, the global population is estimated at 6.72 billion.   That makes for a lot of demand for future growth and development which cannot take place without mineral and metal products needed for telecommunications, power production and transmission, agriculture, transportation, health care and medicine and environmental improvement.  As that transpires, the demand for human resources inside the mining sector will also expand.