Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum chairman Nick Giorgetta believes mining’s skills shortage is just years away from being at crisis levels if more Australians aren’t attracted to the industry.
Giorgetta, in his speech to open the 2018 event in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, used the stage to dispel the myths that surround mining and highlight the positives of the industry.
He said commentary that the mining boom was over sent a “very negative message” about an industry that was actually thriving.
Giorgetta wants the industry to sell the value of mining to Australian politicians, the voters and, most importantly, the young people of the country.
“I have been involved in mining all of my working life, 47 years to be exact. Whenever I tell people that, I can see them picturing me with a head lamp and a face full of black dust getting out of an underground safety cage every day,” Giorgetta said.
“The perception that the mining industry is unsafe, unsustainable and a dirty job still persists in many parts of the community, but we know that it is a myth.
“The reality is that the mining industry has a culture of pursuing excellence. It creates opportunities not only in the traditional professions of geology, mining engineering and metallurgy, but also in the fields of environmental science, robotics, computer modelling, general engineering and numerous other professions.”
Giorgetta said mining needed to continually have a pipeline of the “best and brightest” students entering the industry.
He views the decline in the number of enrolments in mining engineering, metallurgy, geology and surveying as the biggest problem the industry will face in future years.
“If we don’t start succeeding in getting these people to choose a career in mining, in five years’ time we will have problems satisfying the expected skills demand our industry will require,” Giorgetta said.
“This is approaching crisis level and action needs to be taken now. We require enrolments today, so that the skills pipeline is satisfied in the future.”
Giorgetta pointed to several positives that have emerged in the mining industry over the last decade, including the substantial increases in iron ore, LNG, coal and gold output.
“Production costs have been reduced, and in some cases remarkably so,” Giorgetta said.
“The price of commodities such as nickel and copper are on the increase and we should see some of those mining companies back into production.
“New metals like lithium, graphite and cobalt, which are linked to the surging demand for batteries, are being developed with long mine lives and predicted strong profits.
“Importantly, across all sectors miners are taking advantage of their strong balance sheets to address the problem of depleted resource bases.”
Giorgetta doubts Australia has ever seen this type of reliability before, saying the mining industry is well positioned to remain the largest contributor to the country’s GDP for many years to come.
He said it was time to stop mourning the end of the mining construction boom and start celebrating the industry successes.
“We all need to welcome and encourage ongoing and future developments,” Giorgetta said.