Does your mining future lie beyond iron ore and gold?

Mining commodities of the future Australian mining jobs

Climate change means the demand for some mineral commodities will grow exponentially. Could this be the key to your future mining career?

When you imagine your career in the mining industry you probably imagine a future that involves one of the commodities we’re famous for, like gold or iron ore.

 

While those commodities have historically been big employers, there has always been more diversity to the industry than that. Copper, lead, zinc, diamonds, coal and alumina, for example, all contribute to Australia’s gross domestic product, and mining them provides thousands of jobs.

 

Now, as governments and industries all over the world engage in an urgent race to find greener energy sources, mining of some of those other commodities is set to grow exponentially.

 

Could your future mining job be in a completely different commodity? And is now a good time to gain skills, experience and knowledge in a mineral or area of mining that relatively few people work in now but could be absolutely critical to the economy of the future? Could working with one of these commodities now set you on a career path that means you’re always in demand?

 

Let’s look at some of the minerals that we already know are going to be vital to the global economy as countries and industries switch from fossil fuels to more eco-friendly energy sources in a bid to battle climate change. 

Copper and nickel

Australia is the world’s sixth-largest producer of both copper and nickel, so a lot of people already have experience mining them and the minerals often found alongside them. But did you know copper and nickel are playing a vital role in the switch to electric cars?

 

Electric vehicles use four times as much copper as traditional cars, and yet more copper is required for charging technology. That fact lead BHP’s President of Minerals for the Americas, Ragnar Udd, to state in April 2021 that he expected the demand for copper to more than double and the demand for nickel to quadruple over the next 30 years.

 

And explorers are well and truly onto the trend. They’re making discoveries today that will be the mines of the near future. Just last month, for example, St George Mining discovered 5.5 km of new high-grade copper-nickel sulphides at the Mt Alexander Project in WA. So, the jobs are on the way.

Lithium, cobalt and graphite

Electric vehicles, and the push towards battery power storage generally, is also behind the next group of minerals experiencing a massive spike in demand.

 

Lithium is perhaps the most well-known mineral of a group often called rare earths, but there is a whole group of commodities that are essential to the battery and EV industry. Many of these commodities are also vital to everyday items, like mobile phones, and to industrial uses (graphite, for example, is used in everything from inks to plastics to steel pipes).

 

Here’s how the experts expect demand for these commodities to shift in the coming years:

 

  • Deloitte analysts say global demand for lithium will double or even triple by 2030
  • The World Bank says graphite demand will increase by 500% between 2018 and 2050
  • Analysts at Roskill expect cobalt demand is expected to roughly double by 2030.

 

Explorers and investors are well aware of the opportunity this anticipated demand presents. The work is being done to ensure the Australian mining industry can capitalise on it.

 

The ratings agency Fitch, for example, expects Australia’s cobalt production to grow by 5.3% a year, on average, from 2021-29. That’s compared with 2.4% a year between 2010 and 2020.

 

Australia already leads the world in lithium production and has an estimated 6.3 million tons of lithium reserves.

 

So, in this area, too, the jobs are definitely coming.

Future mining career opportunities abound

While gold and iron ore might always be essential to our way of life and our economy, and it’s likely there’ll be jobs mining those commodities for as long as we have reserves to mine, there are clearly huge opportunities for anyone who wants to forge a career in the commodities that will be critical to our future.

 

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Dan Hatch
Mining People International