Too many Obituaries, not enough Want Ads – by Russell Noble (Canadian Mining Journal – January 2014)

Russell Noble is the editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

Obituaries, unlike Want Ads, are taking up more space in our newspa¬pers lately and sadly, so too are the number of deaths involving mining com¬panies and subsequently, the job opportunities they once offered to skilled and willing workers.

Barrick Gold’s and Cliffs Resources’ recent issues involving their grand projects in South and North America respec-tively are perfect examples of ‘death-and-hope’ situations (much like Obituaries and Want Ads) because they have resulted in headlines around the world that have not only cast doubt on the individual companies, but they have also caused disappointment within the ranks of shareholders and future investors alike.

And by ‘future investors’ I don’t mean people with money to gamble on mining shares, but people in our schools right now who are contemplating their futures in careers that once included mining as an industry offering a lifetime of opportunities.

Fortunately for the most part, it still does because as we all know, the industry isn’t going to dry up and blow away like many of the jobs at Barrick and Cliffs did recently.

But, I am afraid that as mining approaches its seven-year cycle between recession-and-recession (2008 and 2015, as predicted), next year’s graduates will have to make some really tough decisions in their final year before entering the workforce as to where they want to go when they get their degrees.

As more and more students go for their MBA’s, or other Master’s degrees in one field or another, their sights may change drastically because of the ever-increasing number of headlines they read about mining companies folding, or as in cases of Barrick and Cliffs, pulling in the reigns and putting their business plans on hold.

It may take these companies a few years to get their houses back in order, and they most likely will, but in the meantime, what’s the future of mining hold for those students on the verge of making one of the bigger decisions of their lives?

Many students studying mining today probably have mining buried somewhere in their roots and thankfully for their parents or grandparents, they’ll see through the questionable future that mining is offering them right now and they too, will make a living from some aspect of mining.

However few will become true miners because, quite honestly, most students now¬adays don’t want to get dirty at anything they do. And that goes beyond mining.

In fact, most of the university graduates I’ve met recently have no intentions of working “in the field” of their chosen field, per se. They’ll gladly work on dirty jobs from the comfort of a desk and com¬puter but when it comes to wearing boots and overalls, that’s often beyond any realm of consideration.

Sure there are exceptions to every rule but I find those exceptions are the kids who grew up and still live in some of the more remote parts of the country.

And here’s why. Rural kids, especially those from communities hundreds, even thousands of kilometers away from urban centres, tend to appreciate things more, and by things I mean just about every….thing(s). Sorry about the grammar, but you know what I mean.

Rarely does anything come easy to people living in rural communities and while it’s often no picnic for many living in urban centres either, by and large it’s tougher up north and like I alluded to earlier, that toughness is a way of life and one that I feel makes for better miners.

And that is why I think the kids of the north are better suited for mining. Like the mines themselves, they are part of the land and Canada is richer for both. CMJ


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