The mining and resources sector, has historically been a strong pillar of Australia’s economy. Mining and resources alone, generates 6.4% of the country’s total gross value added (GVA) and employs approximately 1.7% of Australians. The strength of Australia’s mining and resources industry is largely due to our abundance of natural resources, such as coal, iron ore and copper, which are highly coveted internationally. Mining commodities consistently make up the bulk of Australia’s exports. Although this economically significant industry has reached astronomical highs, the future of this sector seems to be more unsure.

With greater emphasis on environmental preservation, the dwindling amount of natural resources in Australia and the rapidly declining number of workers joining the industry, concerns are being raised regarding the longevity of this sector. This is not only worrying for the workers directly employed by the mining and resources industry, but also for the rural/regional communities supported by mines, and the country as a whole. Due to the major contributions that the mining and resources sector make to the economy, it is important that steps are taken to create greater security for the industry, and that future generations are also able to reap the benefits.

Finite Resources

One of the main concerns surrounding mining, is the finite nature of resources. The resources and minerals extracted from mines are non-renewable, which means that mines have a very limited lifespan in terms of generating value. Once these mining commodities are depleted, the industry will no longer be viable and Australia’s economy will take a major hit. Due to this inevitability, experts are urging that we reduce our dependence on the mining industry and work towards increasing the diversity of our exports. Technology, professional services, education, medicine, and food, are increasingly being looked to as the next major exports.

Despite the seemingly poor outlook for Australia's mining and resources sector, all hope is not lost for this major industry. The federal government, in conjunction with the state governments, have committed to boosting mining exploration in a bid to ensure that mining continues to be prosperous in the foreseeable future. This is purported to be Australia’s first national resources plan in 20 years, and is aimed at stimulating greater resource investment, build community confidence, and make Australia’s mining and resources sector a world leader. The government’s commitment to greater mining exploration will help identify more mining opportunities and allow us to take advantage of the growing demand coming from China, India, and South-East Asia.

Environmental Concerns

Another reason the future of mining is being called into question, is the severe impact that it has on Australia’s natural environment. Mining operations is not only detrimental to the physical landscape, but it can also negatively impact the quality of the air and water in and around the mining site for many years to come. Mining critically disturbs natural ecosystems, with the local flora and fauna often struggling to bounce back once mining activities cease.

In order to combat the environmental concerns associated with mining and extractive activities, the government requires mining companies to rehabilitate the land once the mine has exhausted its usefulness. Plans for mine rehabilitation are required before any mining activities can take place, which helps to ensure that mining companies act in a socially responsible way, and the environment that has provided significant benefits and value is restored. Mine rehabilitation allows the land to continue to be fruitful post-mining, by returning it to its pre-mining level of productivity.

Declining Workforce

An additional factor threatening the future of the mining and resources industry in Australia, is the declining rates of Australians pursuing a career in this field. This has been attributed to the ‘dirty’ stigma surrounding mining work and the perceived instability of the industry. The waning interest in working in the mining and resources sector is threatening to create a massive skills gap that could severely affect its productivity and profitability. Despite the huge pay packets associated with mining work and the fairly strong commodity prices, it seems as though Australians are looking elsewhere for employment.

To combat this and make mining and resources a more appealing industry to young professionals, the mining industry is working on reducing the stigma surrounding it. The mining industry has begun to promote the benefits of pursuing a career in mining and resources, such as the variation in every working day, the financial benefits, flexible working arrangements, etc. Shifting the somewhat negative perceptions surrounding the mining industry and mining work, is a long term strategy aimed at addressing the current downward trend and improving workforce numbers in the future. To address the immediate skills gap, mining and resource companies are increasingly employing labour hire and recruitment agencies to find workers that possess the required specialised skills. Not only does this outsource the often time-consuming hiring process to a labour hire agency, but mining companies are assured that the labour hire workers provided are thoroughly vetted and match the brief.

The mining and resources sector has been a major contributor to the Australian economy. To maintain the strength, integrity, and longevity of the industry, it is important that the factors that could potentially threaten its future are addressed and appropriately managed now.

At Workfast Labour Hire, we are the experts in hiring for the mining and resources industry. We can help you connect with mining and resources workers that possess all the necessary skills, qualifications and experience you require to get the job done. Workfast’s extensive labour hire database contains workers from all across the country, so no matter where your site is located, we can help supply you with fully-vetted labour hire staff. To get started with Workfast labour hire today, call 1300 824 403 or fill out our online Labour Hire Staff Request Form.