There is a concerning lack of university and School of Mines enrolments in recent years that could see serious challenges ahead for the industry.
The opening address at the 2018 Diggers & Dealers Forum in Kalgoorlie by Forum chairman Nick Giorgetta, pointed out that the decline in students taking up mining and related courses has seen only one female registration at the Western Australian School of Mines in the past two years.
This year’s conference is the largest held in the 27 years, with over 2,300 delegates.
Giorgetta said recently the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, Raleigh Finlayson, President of the WASM Alumni, and Nicole Roocke, deputy chief executive of the CME, outlined the urgency of addressing the low rate of enrolments in mining related courses.
A graph provided by Finlayson “clearly show an alarming trend in enrolment numbers.” This graph shows mining engineering enrolments in tertiary facilities Australia-wide.
Statistics show participation in STEM subjects is at a 20 year low, and that 59% of senior high school and first year university students know nothing about mining careers.
“These are problems that need to be addressed as soon as possible. Nationally, the number of students enrolled in mining engineering is set to fall from 292 in 2014 to a projected 61 by 2020,” Giorgetta said.
“Our industry has been openly criticised for its approach to creating leadership roles for females. The gender lobby has been most effective in publicising the lack of opportunities available to females in mining.
“Unfortunately, this is having unintended negative consequences. Female student enrolments at the WA School of Mines have reduced from 35 in 2007 to one in 2017 and 2018 across all courses.”
Giorgetta said it is time to change the conversation from industry bashing to one where collectively we encourage females to consider mining as a profession.
“I have been involved in mining all of my working life, 47 years to be exact. Whenever I tell people that, I can see them picturing me with a head lamp and a face full of black dust getting out of an underground safety cage every day.
“The perception that the mining industry is unsafe, unsustainable and a dirty job still persists in many parts of the community, but we know that it is a myth.
“The reality is that the mining industry has a culture of pursuing excellence. It creates opportunities not only in the traditional professions of geology, mining engineering and metallurgy, but also in the fields of environmental science, robotics, computer modelling, general engineering and numerous other professions.”
To remain successful, Giorgetta said, the industry has to continually have a pipeline of the best and brightest students entering our industry.
“In my view, the big decline in the number of enrolments in mining engineering, metallurgy, geology and surveying is the biggest problem the industry will face in future years.”
He suggested that in quarterly and annual reports, companies put in their highlights the jobs they have created, the money spent on infrastructure, the amount of tax and royalties paid every quarter and the social investments made in the communities in which they operate.
“Mining has a strong multiplier effect, in the order of $5 to $6 for every dollar spent. It is important that this becomes widely known, as a thriving mining industry equates to a strong Australian economy.”