Mining industry professionals are experiencing unemployment levels double that of the national average.
Figures released today by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy shows unemployment among resource industry professionals is 12.2 per cent.
Geology professionals are facing a 15.1 per cent unemployment level and have been hit hardest as exploration budgets are cut in the wake of falling commodity prices.
The research conducted across AusIMM’s 14,000 member base also shows the pressures those working in the industry are facing, with 17.5 per cent of workers surveyed expected to work more hours for the same pay.
A further 16.6 per cent had been offered lower pay and conditions for the same job, while 8.4 per cent were asked to reduce working hours.
For those without experience in the sector, the picture is even more grim, with 49.1 per cent of the institute’s student members confident they will find work once they graduate.
AusIMM president Geoff Sharrock said the research shows the true extent of the downturn in the resource industry .
“Sustained high levels of unemployment are being felt across all minerals professional disciplines and all Australian states and territories. The impacts of cost-cutting in the minerals sector have been particularly broad, deep and sustained. There are minerals professionals with many years’ experience who are struggling to find work,” Sharrock said.
“It is distressing to see these highly trained professionals out of work.”
AusIMM chief Michael Catchpole said while most workers understood the need to make structural adjustments in the sector in light of shiftin gdemand, many highly skilled minerals professionals risked losing their skills as a result of long-term unemployment.
“Every highly-skilled minerals professional who leaves the sector or goes overseas to work diminishes the Australian minerals industry’s ability to continue to innovate, to lead the application of new mining technologies and to sustainably improve productivity,” Catchpole said.
AusIMM wants the government to remove any barriers that are restricting investment in the resource industry, with a focus on encouraging exploration and innovation in the sector.
Sharrock said AusIMM hoped that the survey results would be used to inform government and industry policy.
“The need for long term thinking is clear. There must be a focus on supporting and developing minerals professionals to ensure the future of the minerals sector and Australia’s economic wellbeing,” Sharrock said.
The survey results come as new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows seasonally adjusted spending in mineral exploration for the June quarter was down 7.5 per cent to $444 million.
The drop in investment is a sign of projects being shelved and work scaled back, leading to job losses.
Chief of the Association of Mining and Exploration companies, Simon Bennison said the fall in exploration spending could have long-term effects if not enough mineral discoveries were made.
“Given the long lead time from discovery to a producing mine, these figures are extremely concerning,” Bennison said.