Mining set to be nation’s fastest growing industry with estimated 1.45 million staff in 20 years

26th Sep 2011

Mining will be the nation’s fastest growing employment industry in the next five years but three times as many jobs are being created outside the mines as inside.

The total mining workforce is tipped to more than double in the next 20 years, from an estimated 693,000 who are now directly and indirectly employed to 1.45 million staff Australia-wide.

In the next five years alone, the Department for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations reveals 69,200 new jobs will be created directly in mining, at a growth rate of 34.5 per cent compared to 25 per cent for health and 21 per cent for electricity, gas, water and waste services.

Already the mining workforce is growing by one-third each year and accounts for 7 per cent of total job creation.

The Minerals Council of Australia estimates that for every worker employed directly by mining, a further three workers are employed in mining-related roles.

They include everything from diesel mechanics who repair and maintain trucks to cleaners who mop up after workers in break rooms and administration areas. Research by The Australia Institute also reveals the mining industry loses an average of 26 per cent of its workforce, leading to a turnover rate of about 53,000 workers at current employment levels.

Engineers, electricians and labourers are high on the hit-list, with Skills Australia deeming between 40,000 and 60,000 workers are required in each profession. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 226,000 people are directly employed in mining in Australia, of which 66,800 are employed in Queensland.

Queensland and Western Australia lead the mining boom with Queensland reporting 83 operating mines as of February and 118 in Western Australia.

Queensland Employment, Skills and Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe says $80 billion in new projects have just been approved across the state. “That translates to 38,000 construction and operational jobs in the Queensland resources sector between now and 2014-15,” Hinchliffe says.

Mackay, Emerald and Gladstone make up the employment trifecta for Queensland’s resources boom.

“We had the coal boom in the ’60s and copper and zinc in the ’70s,” Hinchliffe says. “What we’re seeing is expanded activities in the minerals sector and coal and a whole new industry with the development of Liquified Natural Gas, all at once.”

Rio Tinto Coal Australia, which operates four coal mines near Clermont, Mackay and Emerald, is currently recruiting skilled workers for 180 positions across it’s mining interests in Queensland and New South Wales.

Rio Tinto spokesman Matt Klar says successful candidates for the majority of the sitebased roles will be people with mining backgrounds, but eligible candidates are also likely to be found in defence and transport-based industries. Hinchliffe says this is opening up related employment opportunities.

There are also extraordinary employment opportunities within communities hosting resource projects.

Residential property developer, Devine, announced it would build a $1.4 billion community in the Central Queensland city of Gladstone over the next 12 years, with an education centre, retail outlets, and accommodation for up to 7500 people in 2900 homes.

An estimated 7500 engineering fabrication tradespeople are also required across the state, with only 2930 apprentices in training.

The Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy is currently working in 30 high schools, including Churchie, Alexandra Hills, and Wavell Heights, to connect students with industry opportunities.

Jim Devine from the Queensland Resources Council says there is nothing in the history books to rival the projects that are going ahead in the resources sector in Queensland.

“There is $45 billion in four LNG projects (in Gladstone) alone,” he says.

This equates to 18,000 construction jobs to build the LNG plants and pipelines which will then turn into 5000 to 6000 operation jobs once the plants are online.