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The ‘dirty’ jobs most people don’t want: mining companies struggling to hire for the energy transition

As Lily Dixon rushed off the campus of the University of Leeds, student activists handed her a leaflet calling for a ban on on-campus recruitment by mining and oil and gas companies.

A 24-year-old doctoral student in geology was amazed. She worked with Vancouver-based miners and had recently returned from her trip to Finland.

mason gold,

Exploring new locations for cobalt mining in Europe.

This ban was not an empty threat or an isolated incident. Last year, four UK universities, except for the University of Leeds, banned mining companies from conducting on-campus recruitment or attending career fairs. This is part of a broader trend of university graduates and young workers turning away from the extractive industries out of fear of their negative impact on the planet.

companies that do mining copper, lithium Other metals considered critical parts of green energy-producing supply chains say they’re struggling to find enough Young workers to support the transition. Most mining companies in the United States, Australia and Europe will continue to expand and grow their companies if current hiring trends continue, especially for highly skilled positions such as engineers, exploration geologists and data analysts. It said it could put pressure on its growth plans.

In its latest annual report, Rio Tinto said: “Changing societal expectations are putting pressure on our brand as an employer to better communicate who we are and what we stand for. It is sought after,” he said.

Despite their involvement in the energy transition, mining companies face perceptions of being in a “dirty” industry due to the legacy of mining disasters and accusations of worker exploitation and sexual assault.It’s one of the worst jobs for young people, according to a global survey by consulting firm McKinsey 70% between the ages of 15 and 30 Respondents said they would never or probably never work in mining.

In the United States, the number of geology and earth science graduates in 2020 fell nearly 25% compared to 2015, according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. During this period, the total number of students graduating as a whole increased by 8%.

Lily Dixon in front of a mine in South Africa. Last year, she was one of eight women in a 25-person Mining Geology master’s program.


Lily Dixon

Canada and Australia, where mining is a major contributor to their economies, also saw a drop in student enrollment for related courses. Australia saw a 63% drop in total mining graduates in 2020 compared to 2014, according to McKinsey. According to the Mining Talent Council of Canada, mining and mineral engineering enrollments in Canada declined by 10% in 2020 compared to 2016.

The decline has raised concerns that future knowledge gaps could affect mining as companies have to mine deposits with lower metal densities..

“People have retired before, but now there’s no pipeline of talent coming in, and experience is being lost to retirees,” said Alex Gorman, a mining research analyst at Peel Hunt.

More than half of U.S. miners are over the age of 45, according to Rohitesh Dhawan, chief executive of the International Mining and Metals Council, an industry group. “The people currently in the industry are generally older and approaching retirement,” he said, adding that the hiring crisis means the industry is “under pressure from both sides.” rice field.

According to a McKinsey survey, 86% of industry leaders find it difficult to recruit and retain the talent they need. And nearly three-quarters of these executives said talent shortages are hampering their ability to meet production and strategic goals. Rio Tinto warned that the shortage could lead to business delays and poor performance.

In the U.S., the mining and logging job openings rate was 5.1% in March, up from 3.6% five years ago, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Canada’s mining vacancies have been on an upward trend since 2015, peaking last summer at about 4% for mining and quarrying jobs and just over 6% for mining support activities. Similarly, Australian mining vacancies rose from 2,500 in May 2016 to 10,600 in February, the lowest level since 2009, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Sector too have trouble attracting women. Mining is one of the few industries that remains male-dominated and has a reputation for being unsafe for women. Rio Tinto said in a 2022 report based on a survey of 10,000 employees that 28% of women working in mines had experienced sexual harassment and 21 women had been raped or raped in the past five years. He said he had reported being sexually assaulted or attempted to do so.

Alex Gorman core logging in Botswana. “Having a woman alone in a room can be scary,” she says.


Alex Gorman

“Having one woman in a room can be scary,” said Gorman, a mining analyst who also worked on a copper mining project in Botswana earlier in his career. “It’s hard for her to have a family and be a geologist in the field,” she says.

An EY study last year found that women make up 12% of the global mining and metals workforce, the second-largest gender imbalance after the construction sector. The lack of women in leadership positions has also proven to be an obstacle to attracting a young and diverse workforce.

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Mining companies are also facing accusations of exploiting the local labor force.

“In terms of the exploitation of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, there is usually not enough accountability,” said the CEO of Geology, a telecommunications company that helps mining companies improve their public image. Hayden Mort says.

The current recruitment challenge is built on the perception that mining companies have not taken ownership. past disasters Experts say accusations of local labor exploitation are fueling a bad reputation.

Companies are taking steps to combat this perception and adoption challenge. Miners have expanded their hiring to include business and data science majors. We also recruit closer to the mining site where potential candidates are familiar with the company.

Rio Tinto saw a 30% increase in enrollment in its graduate trainee programs worldwide last year. “This was our largest group to date, with 265 new graduates,” said a company spokesperson, adding that the company hopes to hire 300 college graduates this year.


expects to employ 3,500 people through a new program that will recruit apprentices and trainees as well as university graduates.

Employment-focused nonprofits are also joining the fray, hoping to help build a talent pipeline in what they see as a burgeoning industry.

The non-profit Women in Mining UK is working with schools to introduce more courses related to environmental and geological sciences into the UK curriculum, especially for students aged 8 to 13. . This deserves even more praise,” said Stacey Hope, the group’s managing director.

Workers prepare to be lowered into the mine at the Vale Copper Cliffs Mine in Ontario, Canada.


Cole Burston/Bloomberg News

Hope also aims to introduce internships and scholarships to build career paths for young women interested in the field. She hopes young workers will help mining companies evolve, take on more social responsibilities and improve mining practices.

Codelco, Chile’s state-owned copper mining company, was recruiting closer to the mine. In a recent survey, Codelco was named the top choice for Chilean university graduates to work for, despite recent disciplinary action from environmental regulators.Among the top 10 companies are Nestlé and


According to the ranking agency Melco.

egyptian gold miner


It also employs more local workers than expats from Europe and Australia. Martin Hogan, CEO of Centamin, said that by recruiting workers from within Africa, they would be relatively local, and suitable workers would be recruited from countries such as Congo, Ghana, and Zimbabwe, which have less mining experience than Europe and elsewhere. He said he was looking for knowledgeable people.

Geologize’s Mort said social media apps such as Instagram are also great tools for reaching young people, but noted that the industry also needs to be held accountable for past problems such as environmental degradation. I’m here.

“You have to be real,” he said. “Be transparent about the environmental and community impacts of your activities.”

However, not everyone agrees that mining is essential to the energy transition.

Jamie Kelsey Fry, spokesperson for the UK-based environmental pressure group, said: “A certain amount of mining is necessary, but today’s profit-driven industries are responsible for massive environmental and ecological destruction and countless human rights violations. responsible,” he said.Extinction Rebellion.

Dixon was one of eight women in the Mining Geology master’s program last year. Most of her classmates have jobs in the industry. Although she continues her studies, she plans to eventually work in the industry.

For Dixon, mining feeds his curiosity about how the world works, and provides opportunities for travel, working outdoors and researching sustainability. “Once you realize that mining is essential, the most important thing is to get on board right away,” Dickson said. “It’s very interesting that we’re working on something like the European cobalt source. It could actually be beneficial to society.”

Please write to Yusuf Khan at the following address:

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