As digitization takes center stage in the mining industry, the nature of work and the employment landscape are poised to change dramatically over the coming years. The digital mine envisions that the core operational processes of the future mining value chain will be highly automated, thereby reducing labor intensity and reshaping the demographics of workforces, at both the mine site and in the back office. The sector will need to rethink how it attracts and retains talent to keep pace with the ongoing digital revolution that has the potential to make mining operations safer and more efficient than ever before. In this post, we look at the implications of digitization on the mining workforce.

 

5 Implications of Digitization on the Mining Workforce:

 

  1. Nature of Talent: As digital technologies continue to be woven into different facets of mining operations, companies will need to recruit digitally savvy workers such as systems experts to operate autonomous machines, and data scientists to turn large volumes of data into actionable insights. This means that the industry is no longer competing only for traditional workers such as mining engineers and geologists, but a new generation of ‘digital natives’. Young talent needs to be actively acquired by the industry, while experienced workers with deep industry knowledge must be trained for digital work.

 

  1. Redefined Roles: As the mining industry looks towards a new wave of automation, existing jobs will need to be redesigned. Workers at the mine site and professionals in the back office will need to learn how to integrate technology into their job functions. To that end, companies must focus their efforts on how to reskill and retrain their existing workforce to learn technology and tools faster.

 

  1. Improved Worker Safety: Autonomous equipment and operations reduce the need for human operators in potentially hazardous mining environments, thereby enhancing mining workforce safety.

 

  1. Employment Dynamics: Automation will displace a significant number of manual jobs within the mining industry by replacing them with robotic processes, thereby impacting local communities dependent on employment and also raising concerns about companies’ social responsibility towards existing employees. However, automation paves the way for new roles to be created and new employment opportunities to be generated. There will be an increasing demand for people skilled in setting up and operating autonomous equipment. As ‘smart’ mines become more commonplace, a whole new set of mining job possibilities emerge.

 

  1. Change in Culture: As the demographics of mining workforces continue to change, mining leadership must also evolve to embrace a culture of diversity, manage across generations and stay relevant to millennial talent. Mining companies will need to connect with a new generation and nurture relationships with them. Some of this is possible through progressive leadership training that exposes new talent to all aspects of the business.

 

Chris Salisbury, chief executive of Iron Ore at Rio Tinto says while the jobs of today may not be the jobs of tomorrow – it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Increasingly, we are finding that technology and automation is helping us to engineer out safety risks and take people out of the ‘danger zone’. We’re creating a workplace where machines do the repetitive tasks, and people make the important decisions. That allows us to put frontline teams into safer environments, and people to have safer, more productive and more rewarding roles within the mining industry”, Chris explains.

 

References:

  1. Deloitte, Tracking the trends 2018.
  2. Rio Tinto, What will the mining workforce of the future look like? 14 September 2017

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