Mining employment smashes records

Australia’s mining workforce has continued a steady climb in numbers, with national coal mining employment reaching a record high, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS data from the September to November 2020 quarter saw the total number of coal mining employees rise to 62,000 which marked a 22.2 per cent increase from the previous period (49,600) and the highest result on record.

Total national mining employment reached 264,000 in the September to November 2020 quarter, compared to 240,600 in the June to August 2020 quarter.

The result still trails the quarterly record of 274,200 total mining employees, which was recorded in the March to May 2012 quarter.

Western Australia was the best performing state overall, with a record 121,100 mining employees in the September to May 2020 quarter.

Queensland earned the highest number of coal jobs in the same period, rising from 28,072 to 39,075.

“December trade data also shows the value of Australian coal exports rose by 26 per cent over the previous month, showing coal continues to be an important part of the global energy and industrial mix and will be for years to come,” Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

According to data from the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG), national geoscientist unemployment rate in the December 2020 quarter fell from 10.6 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

The jobs increase was due to an influx in mineral exploration during 202, with in field geoscientists rising from 61.5 per cent to 69.2 per cent.

AIG president Andrew Waltho praised the results, which marked the fourth-lowest unemployment rate since the survey started in 2009.

“It’s great to see job prospects for Australian geoscientists ending what had been a tentative 2020, on such a positive note,” he said.

“The employment improvement appears to be largely due to increased mineral exploration.

“Strong metals prices appear to be driving renewed investment in resource discovery, especially in commodities like gold, copper, nickel and other battery materials, even lithium where 2020 was not a good year for producers and investors.”

Waltho said Australia’s geoscientists are aging with almost 40 per cent of the workforce operating for more than 30 years.

“Almost 40 per cent of geoscientists in Australia have been working for more than 30 years, placing them in their mid-50s, while early career geoscientists: those with less than 10 years’ experience comprise less than 10 per cent of the community.”

This is due to a reduced number of geoscience students meeting the job demand, Waltho concluded.

“This is a real concern, as a similar issue is evident in many developed countries including Canada, United States and across Europe, which raises real concerns as to how demand for geoscientific skills in all sectors of industry will be addressed.”

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