Mining levels off faster than expected

Mining has levelled off a year before expected, Western Australia’s top mining lobby group claims.

Late last year The Chamber of Minerals and Energy forecasted a slight increase in mining jobs this year, suggesting the workforce would peak in 2014, The West Australian reports.

But yesterday CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said job numbers had “probably plateaued this year”.

“I think our graph did envisage some growth this year, I think it’s probably plateaued this year,” he told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum in Perth.

“There has been some tapering off in overall numbers in the resources sector.”

The revised comments come as miners move to layoff staff and secure improved productivity gains whilst cutting exploration budgets and capital expenditure.

It has been estimated more than 3000 jobs have disappeared from WA's mining sector this financial year.

While the majority of job losses were in iron ore, they have also come from nickel and gold as miners struggle to deal with volatile prices and surging operating costs, a survey by WestBusiness of WA mining companies' found.

The survey didn’t include contractor and engineering companies’ job cuts, West Australian reports.

Just last week Barrick Gold cut 60 WA jobs, warning employees more will go in coming months.

BHP Billiton last month slashed 100 WA jobs across its six Nickel West operations, and Rio also added to the numbers, axing 350 construction jobs from its Argyle diamond mine in February.

But the biggest single job cuts this financial year were made by Fortescue Metals Group, sacking almost 1000 employees and contactors after iron ore prices plummeted in September.

As job prospects in the sector tighten some jobseekers are taking desperate measures offering thousands of dollars in cash to anyone who can help them get a mining job.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics mining employment peaked in August with 114,300 jobs, dropping to 108,500 in February and hiring is expected to remain weak in quarter three the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey suggests.

The survey results show hiring rates in the mining and construction sector have fallen to a Net Employment Outlook of -1 per cent, down ten percentage points from this time last year, the lowest since 2009.

The Manpower survey, which measures the hiring intentions of nearly 1,900 employers in Australia for the coming quarter, found 16 per cent plan to increase their hiring, 19 per cent plan to decrease and 64 per cent will make no changes to their hiring plans.

ManpowerGroup’s managing director Lincoln Crawley explained a slowdown in resource investment and a move away from exploration and development activities to less labour-intensive production phases was to blame.

“We have seen a shift in momentum of projects in the resource sector,” he said.

“In the past we have had large companies planning projects at similar times in a period of rapid growth.

“We are currently seeing large projects being planned at a slower and more measured rate alleviating pressure on skills shortages in the local market.”

He said the shift in momentum is a result of heightened uncertainty in the industry.

“On the ground we’re hearing that employers are cautious about investing in new talent, especially with the current political and economic uncertainty,” Crawley said.

Net Employment Outlook Comparison by sector: Manpower Group
  Q3 2013 Quarter-on-quarter change Year-on-year change
National +6% +2% -4%
Mining and construction -1% -2% -10%
Manufacturing 0 -1% -6%

 

The sentiment that uncertainty is causing havoc amongst miners was the basis of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 10thannual global report released last week Mine: A Confidence Crisis,

“The global mining industry lacks confidence about whether costs can be controlled, whether capital returns will improve and whether commodity prices will not suffer a collapse,” PwC Australia’s energy, utilities and mining leader Jock O’Callaghan said.

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