Report: Is Canada's mining industry facing a labor shortage?
A new report by the Mining Industry Human Resource Council (MiHR) sheds light on Canada’s mining labor market, revealing the labor gap is much tighter than other sectors in the country.
For every job vacancy in mining, there were less than three potential job seekers across Canada, compared with the average of six job seekers for every vacancy in other industries.
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“A tight labor market puts upward pressure on wages and salaries, as employers compete for a limited supply of skilled workers. Earnings in the mining sector have increased nearly 40 percent in the last decade – significantly more than the average for all sectors in Canada,” said Ryan Montpellier, executive director of the Mining Industry Human Resource Council.
“Layered on to this is mining’s volatile business cycle and the challenges of recruiting people to rural or remote mining operations. If unresolved, this labor market tightness has the potential to undermine the competitiveness of Canada’s mining sector when the cycle does rebound.”
Canada rsquo;s mining industry will need to hire between 86,000 and 127,000 new workers over the next ten years. The report indicates two major factors in the labor shortage—retirees and commuting.
Approximately 33 percent of the mining labor force in Canada is younger than 35 years old, compared with 22 percent a decade ago. More than 40 percent of the industry is over 45 years old and a number would be leaving the sector in the next decade.
In addition, the report found that mining employers are three times more likely to use commuting workers. As new mines are built in remote areas that do not have the population density to support the necessary workforce, commuting workers will only become more common.
“This is a mining specific challenge that employers have made significant efforts to address by building a local workforce through the attraction of Aboriginal peoples, however, MiHR research shows that this effort is constrained for a variety of reasons including that up to one in four Aboriginal people of working age do not actually participate in the labor force,” said Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada.
“MiHR’s research demonstrates the immediate need for governments, educators and employers to work together to address the major human resource challenges facing Canada’s mining industry.”
The report also highlighted the need for the mining industry’s outdated perception to change.
"Very few people grow up and say, 'When I'm older I want to be a miner.' We need to change that," Montpellier said. "We need to promote what the modern mining industry has to offer."
Turning to women
One likely source for new talent could be adding more women into the mining industry.
Earlier this month, Canada’s Minister of Labor and Minister of Status of Women announced support for a new project to help women advance within the country’s mining sector.
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"The Canadian mining industry faces a number of human resources challenges, now and in the years to come. To meet these challenges, we need to attract and retain the right talent, including women,” said Montpellier.
“This new funding from the government of Canada will allow us to determine what prevents women from advancing in mining and will help us develop the tools the industry needs to address these obstacles.”
The new project will see MiHR develop a number of tools and resources, including gender-based training, equitable hiring procedures and inclusion policies, for companies.
The council's Canadian Mining Industry 2015 Employment, Hiring Requirements and Available Talent 10-year Outlook report is available here.
Anglo American: FutureSmart Mining
Anglo American’s approach to technology, digitalisation and sustainability is changing the nature of the way the company mines. These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how the company sources, mines, processes, moves and markets its products – and how its stakeholders experience that business. Anglo American is transforming its physical and societal footprint with FutureSmart Mining.
“FutureSmart Mining is our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining,” Anglo American’s Tom McCulley told Mining Gllobal. In his role as CEO for Anglo American Peru & Group Head of Projects he has overseen investment of more than $5bn at the company’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru.
“These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how we source, mine, process, move and market our products – and how our stakeholders experience our business. It’s about transforming our physical and societal footprint.”
Anglo is undertaking a feasibility study to assess the possibility of rolling out one of its FutureSmart technologies, Coarse Particle Recovery (CPR), at Quellaveco. “CPR crushes particles to 2.5 times larger than normal, reducing energy consumption and mill time, leading to a 20% increase in throughput and 85% water recovery - a key issue in Peru given the concerns around water scarcity,” says McCulley.
“By allowing water to release from the much coarser particles, CPR will reduce the risks associated with wet tailings and ultimately help eliminate them altogether. When combined with low cost additives, it is possible to dewater residual waste and produce dry stackable tailings. This technology remains a focus area for us as water sent to tailings facilities often represents the largest water loss at a mine.”
Quellaveco is going to be the first mine to run the FutureSmart operating model from day one. Anglo’s idea is to build a stable base on which it can layer new technologies, CPR being one of them.
“We will also be a fully digital mine, which brings us future benefits in terms of understanding and applying changes in real time,” adds McCulley. “Our trucks and our drills will be automation-ready. We have taken the approach that, when we decide to move into an autonomous operation, no jobs will be lost, but the nature of some people’s jobs will have to change.”
FutureSmart is a blend of technology and sustainability,” said McCulley in an interview with Global Business Reports. “If you go back to the vision and design of Quellaveco, it has really been focused on the long-term sustainability of the mine through effective use of things like water, energy and the environment. Quellaveco has been focused on technology such as automation, with digital and analytical tools all coming together. We will be looking at future technologies to bolt on as we go to ensure that we are optimizing the sustainable use of resources and remaining cost-effective.”
Anglo American’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru has created 15,000 jobs during construction and approximately 2,500 jobs are planned for operations, increasing Peru’s copper production by a forecast 300,000 tonnes per year. The mine’s first copper production is expected in 2022. To learn more about Anglo American's Quellaveco copper project read our feature here.