Stark hike in minerals unemployment: study

A MINING-focused professional development group has found the unemployment rate in the Australian minerals industry has become far higher than the national joblessness figure.

The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy said unemployment among professionals in the industry including geoscientists and engineers had increased from 1.7% to almost 10.9% in the 12 months to July.

The survey conducted over AusIMM's 13,500 members indicated that only 2.9% of employed mineral professionals reported wanting more work in July 2012 compared to 9.1% a year later.

Nearly 60% of those surveyed believed there would be even fewer professional jobs available in a year's time.

"Traditionally, a downturn in mining industry investment and operations impacts first on exploration geologists and then other professionals, including mining and metallurgical engineers," AusIMM president Geoff Sharrock said.

"This research shows that the impacts this time have been sudden and have bitten deeply into the professional employees who are central to finding, developing and running the mining operations that underpin our economy."

AusIMM CEO Michael Catchpole said the increases in unemployment and underemployment were being felt right across the mining sector and were affecting people working for the major mining companies as well as those involved in exploration and consultancy work.

"Many highly skilled minerals professionals are now unemployed or underemployed and we risk losing their skills," Catchpole said.

"This will reduce the ability of the minerals industry to innovate and improve productivity and to respond to increases in demand for our resources as economic conditions improve in our major markets."

Some regional variations were suggested by the research, with New Zealand professionals faring slightly better than their Australian counterparts, reporting an 8.7% unemployment rate.

Earlier this year, the Australian Institute of Geoscientists said underemployment among Australian geoscientists had reached its worst level since the global financial crisis, hitting 22% in the June quarter due to ongoing pressure in the exploration and mining spaces.


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