Mining for Talent: Exploration and Mining Industries Address the Human Resources Challenge

Skills Shortage is the Number One Issue Facing the Minerals Sector

Vancouver, BC – January 29, 2008 – As the talent pool in the mineral exploration and mining industries starts to dry up, the mineral resource sector is developing a comprehensive strategy to address the dire labour shortage facing the industry.

Canada’s mining industry needs approximately 92,000 workers over the next decade to meet projected demand, according to the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR). The average age group in the sector is 45 to 54 years old, which represents more than 50 per cent of all workers in mining, according to Statistics Canada. This is far above the Canadian average of 39 percent 40-to-50-year-olds in other business sectors.

“The elimination of mandatory retirement by the federal government means very little to the mineral exploration and mining sector in BC,” says David Bazowski, Chair of the British Columbia Mineral Exploration Mining Sector Labour Shortage Task Force. According to a recently completed labour market study conducted by Roslyn Kunin & Associates on behalf of the task force, most employees in BC’s mineral exploration and mining sector plan to retire around age 60. Industry estimates indicate that the industry could lose more than 40 per cent of its existing workforce within 10 years as older workers retire.

According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the task force, occupations facing the greatest shortage in BC include:

· Geologists

· Mining Engineers

· Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanics

· Accountants

· Electricians (Surface)

· Metallurgical Engineers

· Millwrights

· Maintenance Supervisors

Over the last few years, mineral exploration and mining companies have become extremely creative in their recruitment and retention strategies. Many companies routinely offer lavish signing bonuses to new recruits and finders fees to employees who refer prospective workers to the company. Some companies also provide bonuses for new employees who remain on the payroll longer than three months. Employment benefits today include profit sharing, flex Fridays, as well as fitness and lifestyle benefits. Recruitment ads often give the company scant mention while aggressively promoting the affordable lifestyle and recreational opportunities of rural communities. Increasingly, company executives are wooing earth sciences university students before they graduate in a bid to snap up scarce talent.

In an effort to address the human resources challenge, BC’s mineral exploration and mining industries established the multi-stakeholder British Columbia Mineral Exploration Mining Sector Labour Shortage Task Force last May. The task force is comprised of representatives from the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, Mining Association of British Columbia, Aggregate Producers Association of BC, Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association, MiHR, mining unions, the BC and federal government, and exploration and mining companies.

The task force is charged with developing a practical industry-wide human resource and labour force strategy for companies, employment service providers, educational institutions and other training providers. Key priorities include encouraging greater participation in the minerals sector by women, aboriginals and new Canadians; streamlining the immigration and temporary working programs; creating new mining operator trades and expanding existing apprenticeship programs; and promoting mineral exploration and mining as an attractive, high-paying profession to elementary and high school students.

“One of the foremost challenges facing the industry is the image of mining as a dirty, low-tech, pick and shovel industry,” said Bazowski. “Mining is actually one of the heaviest users of high technology and has a stellar safety record. The task force intends to aggressively market the industry and the breadth of challenging, fulfilling professions it has to offer.”

With the completion of the labour market study, the task force is currently conducting an assessment of training, education and human resource practices in the mineral exploration and mining industries. The task force’s human resource plan is scheduled to be released this spring.

This year’s Mineral Exploration Roundup Conference at the Westin Bayshore hotel, Vancouver, features a number of events designed to attract young people to earth sciences.

Student-Industry Networking Event

To attract new talent to the industry, Roundup Conference organizers will be hosting the fourth annual student-industry networking event on Tuesday, January 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Marine Room. Post secondary students from BC, Alberta, and exchange students from the UK and Australia will meet with mineral exploration and mining industry executives to discuss job and career opportunities in the sector and make new business contacts. Approximately 150 students are expected to attend the networking event which generally attracts upwards of 75 industry representatives looking for new employees. The student-industry networking event is sponsored by Teck Cominco Limited.

Elementary Students and Teachers Attend Roundup

One hundred twenty Lower Mainland elementary school students from grades 4 to 7 will be attending the Mineral Exploration Roundup Conference on Tuesday, January 29 to learn about the mineral exploration industry as part of their classroom studies on geology and mining.

Sporting bright yellow “Junior Miner” helmets and red “Roundup Rockhounds 2008”

T-shirts, the students from Queen Mary Elementary School in Vancouver and Dr. F.D. Sinclair Elementary in Surrey will explore the conference trade show and pan for gold with “Yukon Dan,” silver medalist for Canada’s national team at the 1998 World Gold Panning Championships. Students will also meet with professionals working in the mineral exploration industry, learn about diamonds in Canada, visit a special rock and mineral exhibit, and play “Stump the Geologist” by presenting their unknown rocks and minerals to geologists for identification.

The students’ school projects on rocks, minerals and mining will be displayed in the foyer of the Westin Bayshore hotel, up on the Mezzanine, and in several other places throughout the conference centre during the four-day Roundup conference.

On Wednesday January 30, 12 Grade 10, 11 and 12 students from schools in Vancouver, West Vancouver, Mission, Port Coquitlam, and Surrey, who are interested in learning more about geoscience, and more broadly, minerals industry careers, will also be attending the Roundup Conference. Their visit is intended to provide them with a better understanding of the various applications of science and engineering, and the breadth of careers in the mineral exploration and mining sectors.

On Thursday January 31, 15 teachers from the Lower Mainland schools will attend the Roundup Conference. While most are from secondary schools, they may teach science or social studies, or career education. Guest speakers will provide an introduction to exploration and mining, the social and environmental considerations for mineral resources development, and the current and future workforce needs. The teachers’ visit is intended to familiarize them with the nature and scope of the modern minerals industry and the breadth of careers if offers for young people.

The student and teacher programs are organized by the Mineral Resources Education Program of BC in cooperation with the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC).