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Australia’s mining industry will require about 21,000 new on-site operational employees by 2024, according to a report released by a peak employer group.

It is a conservative estimate based only on those new projects classed as committed or likely to come online by the Australian Government’s Department of Industry.

Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said understanding future workforce demand was critical to assisting industry with workforce planning strategies, and to assist government in directing skills and labour mobility initiatives.

“Australia’s mining industry is facing new workforce demand at levels not seen since the previous investment and construction ‘boom’,” he said.

“While demand across the next four years will be far steadier than the unprecedented growth we saw in 2005-2012, it is clear that securing the pipeline of skills to support mining project growth to 2024 will be a significant challenge.

“This challenge must be met head-on, collaboratively, by industry and government. Employers, peak industry bodies and state and federal governments are united in our desire to be well prepared for the workforce demands of this next phase of industry growth.

“We must avoid a scenario where nationally significant mining projects are delayed by skills shortages, or competing for engineers, trades and skilled operators with the $100 billion worth of public infrastructure projects reportedly in Australia’s pipeline.”

The 2019–2024 Mining Workforce forecasts the on-site labour demand required for new mining projects scheduled for completion over the next four years.

It finds 57 projects worth $41 billion, either ‘committed’ or considered ‘likely’ by the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, will demand 20,767 on-site operating employees by 2024.  
The forecast occupational breakdown includes:
8660 mining plant operators;
2847 heavy diesel fitters;
970 other trades, such as electrical, mechanical and maintenance trades;
4110 supervisors, management, administration and other white collar roles; and
4180 engineers, technicians, geologists and related roles.

State-by-state analysis shows Western Australia will have the greatest new mining workforce demand, with 30 projects requiring 10,679 operational employees by 2024.

Queensland coal growth a key driver

Queensland will require 5714 new mining employees, driven by a number of large coal projects coming online over the next four years. 

Importantly, AMMA’s report does not factor in the 153 prospective mining projects considered by the Department of Industry as ‘possible’ to proceed over this timeframe.

“AMMA was determined for this forecast to be highly conservative,” Mr Knott said.

“We have put forward the minimum likely number of new on-site workers our industry will demand over the next four years, based on projects already committed or very advanced in feasibility studies.

“This conservative approach also factors in automation, remote operating centres, closure of ageing mining projects and other factors that could impact workforce availability in the near future.

“Should a number of projects considered ‘possible’ in the mining project pipeline become committed, AMMA’s forecasted new workforce demand of 21,000 by 2024 could be exceeded very significantly.”

More than 20,000 workers needed as new mines come online