What skills and qualifications will future miners need?

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Technology is changing the way the mining industry works, so what will the mining jobs of the future look like?

The mining industry is always changing. In the more than a century-and-a-half since the Gold Rush, exploration methods, techniques, equipment and technology have evolved dramatically. And they continue to evolve as progress makes the industry more efficient, effective and safe.

Twenty years ago, for example, remote-controlled underground earthmoving equipment was developed to solve some of the dangers of underground mining. Nowadays, entire fleets can be operated remotely from a control room several thousand kilometres away.

So technology will certainly play a big part in the future of mining. But what will the roles of the future look like?

A new kind of “remote”

There will definitely be more positions where people will need strong computer skills, software knowledge and analytical skills as more sites rely on technology to manage aspects of their operation remotely. Take a look at this article from the ABC http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-18/rio-tinto-opens-worlds-first-automated-mine/6863814 about Rio Tinto running its pits at Yandicoogina, Nammuldi and Hope Downs 4 mine sites with workers controlling the driverless trucks, mostly from an operations centre 1200 kilometres away in Perth.

“The trucks can run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without a driver who needs bathroom or lunch breaks, which has industry insiders estimating each truck can save around 500 work hours a year,” the report states.

It also quotes Yandicoogina mine operations manager, Josh Bennett, who said

the technology “takes away dangerous jobs while also slashing operating costs.

We have taken away a very high-risk role, where employees are exposed to fatigue”.

You can also watch a video from Channel 9, showing the operations control room, here . http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2014/06/inside-rio-tintos-robot-mining-control-room/

Varied skills will always be required

But there will also still be a need for people to physically be on site, as even remote controlled trucks still require people to maintain them and site-based systems will always need monitoring.

And, of course, as long as there are employees at mine sites, the industry will always need support personnel in place to ensure the site and mine village run efficiently — that meals are cooked, rooms and offices are cleaned, visitors are welcomed and store stock is maintained.

So there will always be a range of jobs for a range of skill sets in Australia’s mining industry. The good news is these jobs are getting safer all the time. The secret to getting a good job will be skilling yourself adequately to make yourself as attractive to an employer as possible.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International