Salaries in the United States for folk in the upper echelons of mining are higher than most other places—except perhaps Europe. To see the salary ranges, see the mining salary surveys from Western Cost Mine.

Are American mining companies using this salary advantage to recruit Canadian mining executives, engineers, and specialists? We can find no data to answer this question. We have only a few personal case histories to support the hypothesis that they are. These are confidential, so all we can record is that brain drain from Canada to the United States is occurring. Conversely, we speculate that US brain drain to the oil sands of Alberta must surely be happening—but just wait until the US oil shales start up and the flood flows the other way.

As a US mining company charged with recruiting mining staff from Canada, how do you begin? There is always the old boy network: call the folk you went to school with, attend a conference in Vancouver in the summer (always a delight), advertise in the e-press or the paper press, or engage the services of a head-hunter. Let me confess, by way of full disclosure, that I have had two very good jobs via head-hunters and support them unequivocally.

These thoughts were prompted by a fine lamb curry. I was brought up to the aroma of curry always in the kitchen. We went to the old Indian’s store down the way to buy small packages of his most recent imports from India—each package with a different and distinctive aroma, some burning one’s innards, some beguiling, some irritating with desire. The mutton would be cut small and cooked for hours to make it tender and the spices added with religious devotion. But always the curry served with piles of yellow rice, coconut, bananas, tomatoes, and onions drenched in vinegar was heaven.

So these same aromas rising from a plate in a Vancouver restaurant set my enquiring faculties into overtime. Plus I was deep in conversation with Leora Bach, who too had chosen the lamb curry. She is, by her own terminology, a head-hunter of top mining people. Her details are on her website, so let me describe only the parts not already on the internet. She has spent the last ten years in Vancouver and Toronto founding and building up her own company, Bach Associates Executive Search. She knows the Canadian mining industry better than I do, and she knows how to find the right top man or woman. I would love to record her description of her approach, but that would be to give it all away, so rather give her a call and ask her to tell you herself—certainly her passion and energy will impress.

Like me, she has family in the US and travels there for the fun and pleasure of it all. We debated the issue of how one would find a Canadian top miner and persuade them to move to the US. I recalled my own experiences with a head-hunter who tried to recruit me from Canada to go to Peru—not brought to fruition due to divergent perspectives of what I thought my services were worth. At least I got a trip to Lima, which convinced me that I needed even more than the mining company’s offer to live in such a city.

Her website reflects her South African background:

We have recruited senior management for some of the most prestigious companies in this industry, including Anglo American, Johannesburg Consolidated Investments (JCI), General Mining Corporation (Gencor), De Beers, Impala Platinum, and Rustenburg Platinum.

Pity the South African mining salaries are a mere pittance when converted to dollars, Canadian or US. How could anybody persuade a Canadian mining engineer to go to Johannesburg? Well maybe to China or Australia as some of my friends have done.

I did a Google search with keywords executive search and mining, and found some firms that do executive searches for mining. But none seem to have one person, trained, experienced, committed, and able to cover the totality of South African, American, and Canadian mining in a single lunch. At least if they do, they are invited for lunch. The one statement that Leora made that convinced me was: “I guarantee my placements for a year; other companies do it for a mere three months.” And what was important was her obvious pride and fierce determination to back up this statement. Wow, I was impressed.

Again in the interests of full disclosure, I (jokingly?) permitted her to put me in her database so that I come up when she is engaged to find somebody like me - a grumpy, retired engineer - to write for a mining house in a beautiful city for a six-figure salary for nine months of work. Is it any wonder she does not find jobs for people, but prefers to find people for jobs?

While editing this piece, I came across the Chalre Site. They do “Executive Search & Management Consulting in the Emerging Countries of Asia”. Incidentally on their site is a download of a fine presentation on outsourcing. This quote from their site tells it all: “Companies in most countries of the world are currently facing shortages in various key sectors of their economy. Immigrant friendly countries are able to attract the best talent in the world to meet their growing needs in industries such as Information Technology, Construction, Oil & Gas and Engineering.”