Mining industry to solve lack of skilled workers with technology: study

International mining executives believe the industry is in the midst of a transition from a blue collar to a white collar workforce, reveals a recent study by advisory firm BDO International.

Of the mining executives interviewed, 79% are bracing for the negative impact the lack of a skilled workforce will have on their business this year, according to the survey conducted among 130 C-Level and senior financial executives at resource companies in the US, South Africa, the U.K., Australia and Canada.

Environmental policy tops executives’ domestic regulatory concerns, with 34% citing it as a potential issue in the year ahead. Labour and employment issues follow closely, with 30% of respondents noting it as a major concern.

One of the most revealing findings is related to how mining companies are planning to solve the issue of declining numbers of skilled workers. A whopping 50% of the executives surveyed admitted they plan to substitute labour with technology.

What’s more, 30% of them believe technology will have a positive impact on their business in 2013, improving profitability, reveals the survey.

“With advancements in technology — from new software that makes prospecting easier, to advancements in mineral transportation — the industry is at a critical juncture. Technology, and the individuals who are skilled in developing and utilizing these tools, is now more important than ever as demands for greater returns and increased productivity are forcing the industry to innovate,” said Charles Dewhurst of the natural resources industry group at BDO.

The study also revealed mining executives are concerned about the impact that resource nationalism and tax increases will have in their businesses this year, with 67% anticipating an important effect as Australia’s “super tax” takes shape and countries such as South Africa plan for similar tax burdens.

Image by Andre Blais/