Skills shortage will worsen: Xstrata

The difficulties with staff recruitment and retention will only worsen as the resources industry undertakes massive expansion in the next five years.

Xstrata Zinc Australia chief operating officer Brian Hearne told a Mt Isa Community session last night that 192 vacant positions exist in the Mount Isa zinc business, in addition to several more in Xstrata Copper.

Paul Cooper from Schneider Electrics, a company that provides electric solution for the mining industry, told Australian Mining the skills shortage being faced by mining industry currently will only get worse.

“The predictions are saying we won’t see the peak of the skills shortage until 2020.

“The industry is already experiencing the effects now, so what we need to do is get ahead of the ball.”

Xstrata’s Copper North Queensland chief operating officer Steve de Kruiff agrees the demand for staff will only increase in coming years.

"Queensland has a huge amount of projects on their books and a lot of the big LNG plants that are being built around Gladstone and such are looking at workforces of 11,000 people," he said.

"And I know where they’re going to come from – they’re going to try and poach them from wherever they can and some of them will come from here so we have to be on the front foot with our attraction as well as retention policies to make sure that people want to stay and work for us."

First priority for the company is filling the vacancies with local workers, according to Hearn.

"The roles are from right across the spectrum, many of them due to expansion," he said.

"Our first stop with recruitment is people who want the job who are based in Mount Isa. It costs us a lot of money to bring people here so we want to look locally first for people in Mount Isa who want the job."

Xstrata is promoting the lifestyle in Mount Isa in their attempts to recruit staff.

"Many people will have seen our new brochures promoting Mount Isa to get families to move here," he said. Mount Isa has a pretty good lifestyle, we just need people to know about it."

de Kruijff said the copper business always has roles to be filled, although they are currently less than the zinc business.

"We do have some turnover and that’s the nature of mining towns, they’re quite transient," he said.

"But we’ve got a good base of people here who are second, third and fourth generation in Mount Isa so we have the people that stay and then the people we try to encourage to stay a bit longer."

If all vacancies cannot be filled locally, Xstrata will then look nationally and globally for staff.

Image: Roslyn Budd,

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