The Australian mining industry appears to be picking up again, just five years after a celebrated mining boom recorded as the largest in its history. However, plants are struggling to find enough workers to fill the gaps as they begin new recruitment drives.

Between 2012 and 2016, a huge slump beset the industry and up to 60,000 people lost their jobs. A recession severely impacted companies being able to facilitate full-time working opportunities.

In 2018, however, the future is looking brighter as the mining industry starts to show serious recovery, especially in Queensland and Western Australia. It would seem, however, that this news is yet to reach many Australians, as companies are imploring potential new recruits to come and work for them.

According to research from SEEK, the Australian jobs website, mining is the leading growth market for new jobs posted over the last year. It is up 32% compared to this time last year and posted four times more job advertisements than the second-nearest industry. 

This is yet to translate to successful hires, with a significant number of job advertisements posted still yet to bear fruit.

Instead, Australian business leaders are looking outward, as Paul Everingham, the CEO of Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME), approved a new migration agreement to source workers from outside of the country.

With measures to make migrants who come to fill the gaps exempt from the Skilled Migrants program, the Designated Area Migration Agreement will enable suitable recruits to fly in as soon as possible.

Calling the shortfall something close to a crisis, Everingham said that the mining sector in Kalgoorlie-Boulder needs up to 1,000 workers, and whichever way people look at the issue, it is a problem that the CME is unable to “sugar coat”.

Suggesting a need to maximize the fact that New South Wales is currently in the middle of a period of growth in infrastructure, he said that “all Australian companies want to employ Australians first, but if there aren’t enough Australians…”

Citing the need to create “access to skilled workers immediately”, Everingham said that his members would welcome the opportunity to put skilled migrant zones in place to facilitate this and fix the problem as soon as possible. 

With thousands of jobs up for grabs across a wide range of roles, from engineers to cleaners, the type of jobs available may not be the only issue. Many suggest that more needs to be done to address the work-life balance of so-called “fly-in, fly-out” (FIFO) workers.

The biggest mining companies are showing no signs of stopping their current hurtle toward growth regardless of a lack of uptake in jobs, as Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue have all begun work on new mines in the last month. All these mines are in Western Australia, and up to 5,000 new jobs should need filling.

The sector currently accounts for 1.9% of the nation’s total workforce and is the third-biggest contributor to the economy at present. Mining is also causing a huge boost to the local economy of Western Australia, described earlier this month as finally being “out of the woods”. 

Chris Richardson, Deloitte Access’ Director, declared Western Australia to be “out of the woods, but it isn’t quite yet out of the doldrums”. However, he did point out that the state is well on its way to a more settled path.