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Executive roles in the mining industry: Current outlook and growing concerns

Often, when we talk of mining jobs, a certain mental image forms: coal-dusted men emerging at the end of a shift as a steam-whistle blows, hardhats on and pick-axes in hand. 

Whilst this might be the popular image of mining, it fails to give an accurate impression of a sector that increasingly finds itself at the cutting edge of engineering, science and technology and of the executive-level workforce, which makes that industry run effectively.

Executive roles are critical in the mining, mineral and metals sectors. Whether ensuring efficiency and safety in production and development or assisting in reducing time and cost, executives in the mining industries are instrumental in ensuring their respective enterprises continue to experience economic well-being. Despite this, there is often a lack of awareness of the breadth of executive roles and opportunities available in the mining industry. 

Gender diversity within executive mining roles

Women are underrepresented at all levels within the mining industry, particularly within executive and senior roles. For example, in a 2021 study conducted by McKinsey & Company of global recruitment statistics of women in mining jobs at the executive level, the female representation within mining enterprise C-suites sat at 13%, with no female-helmed mining companies within the S&P 500 companies. 

Despite this, the importance of diversity in the mining industry cannot be overstated. Beyond equality, diverse teams have been shown to be more productive and safer, promoting strategic creativity. Similarly, investors have tended to favour companies with women represented at the executive level, with companies with gender diversity on their executive board generating more profit than those with less diverse executive teams. 

Gender diversity is important at the executive level in mining, particularly if companies wish to have a strong footing in the global market as we move forward into the decade. 

So, what can solve the gender disparity in the mining industry? Mining executive recruitment agencies are particularly important in addressing this issue—particularly at the senior level. Executive recruiters can recognise that women are typically more hesitant when applying for roles that don’t meet all of the listed criteria, despite meeting the essential requirements of that position. 

Executive recruitment agencies can think differently about the sorts of people that can fill their vacant mining jobs, such as drawing on candidates with backgrounds in the military or manufacturing. Alternatively, they can consider working alongside companies with established mentorship programs helping women climb the ladder in their mining careers. Companies can champion policies which tackle systemic exclusionary practices in their worksites and seek to improve company cultures. 

By focusing on the retention and promotion of their female employees, companies will create environments where women want to work. More women will be attracted to senior mining jobs when they know they can thrive and advance with these companies. 

Supply chain disruptions, largely due to geopolitical strife and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to pose a boon to the mining industry. As a result, increased demand coupled with the reduced supply of mineral commodities has led to EBITDA margins nearing 50% in 2022. 

As we proceed through the coming decade, the demand for these minerals is only expected to grow, particularly as hundreds of millions of East Asian citizens enter the global middle class.

From new computing and telephony developments to the renewable energy industry, a similar rush is being felt on the minerals and metals used in producing solar photovoltaic cells, wind turbine blades, transformers, microprocessors, and battery storage technologies. 

As global economies transition towards net zero and organisations push for decarbonisation, the need for metals will mean that the mining industry will be expected to meet the challenge of providing the required raw materials. 

From silicon to tellurium and indium, as well as the coal used in coking furnaces for steel production, the mining industry is experiencing a renaissance since its lull in the later years of the last decade. Consequently, executive roles in the mining industry will be fundamental in leading the projects supporting our transition towards clean energy generation.

Executives in these roles will drive the scientific and technical aspects of the projects they work on while ensuring the safety of the staff working under them. With mining so intrinsically linked to the global economy, the success of the next generation of mining executives will hinge on their ability to leverage the increased financial strength of their operations and to utilise high commodity prices now to weather any future market uncertainty.

These executive roles are difficult to recruit for, however. Years of experience and specialist qualifications in various geoscientific fields are common requirements for employment at the executive level. In addition, an ageing workforce—averaging 46.5 years old, or 6 years higher than the US workforce—means an executive-level skills gap is looming in the industry. 

Executive search firms can assist in plugging this gap. Still, to fully address it, the entire industry must evidence the varied character of executive and senior-level roles available and attract talent from other sectors. 

Far beyond the antiquated image of mining outlined in the opening of this article, executives are vital to the mining industry’s productivity, safety, and scientific rigour.

Advanced roles: from technical services management to geosciences

At the senior level, many mining and mineral extraction enterprises are engaged in a war for talent. As the skill set required for these roles often requires experience in project management, geology and computer science, candidates from outside of the mining industry have an opportunity to utilise their transferable skills. 

The future of executive-level work in the mining industry will not only be increasingly digital, but with the introduction of so-called intelligent mining operations, it will also be less siloed. Collaboration between cross-functional teams will be key, especially as developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence allow for the operation of mines from “nerve centres”. 

Let’s discuss what mining recruiters are considering to be the executive jobs of the future for the sector:

Technical services management

As resource extraction becomes an ever-more specialised and complex task, the role of the technical services manager becomes increasingly important. The technical services manager supervises the varied technical teams which enable the mining company to carry out its operations, as well as coordinating the geological and engineering studies which ensure that mining activities are sustainable and in accordance with local legislation. 

Candidates looking to transition into such a position would typically be expected to hold an undergraduate degree in mine engineering or geology and be able to evidence around a decade’s-worth of progressive experience in underground mining. 

At this level, postgraduate degrees with a focus on the more specific aspects of mine operation would not be uncommon, with Master’s degrees in an area of geosciences or hydrology likely improving a prospective technical services manager’s chances of securing a role. Likewise, as the role will often require their presence at the site, proficiency in local languages will benefit the technical services manager. 

The role of the technical services manager is twofold: 

To ensure the management and administration of the mine site and its mineral resources are optimised, including:Monitoring the activities of the geological teamVentilationPlanning—including the production of studies on equipment and models on the cost of the life of the mine

To provide support, mentoring and leadership for the technical services team, ensuring that the workplace is:ProductiveAble to support the overall company and its strategiesFalls within the health and safety guidelines set out within the company’s policies

Computer literacy is also a necessity, with technical services managers often requiring advanced skills in 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and ventilation software such as VnetPC. In addition, the technical services manager will be expected to read and understand mine plans and be able to communicate these plans with the technical team in exacting detail. 

Leading the technical services team, the day-to-day activities of the technical services manager will see them playing a supervisory role. They will guide the overall planning of mine development and identify areas for improvement, whether in team cohesion or in extraction processes, such as to improve the efficacy and timeliness of mining operations.

As a result, the technical services manager is integral in the long-term safety and strategic planning for the company’s mining operations. They ensure that the surface grade and any geological activities being undertaken at their site are done in a way that aligns with the company policy and organisational goals. 

Mining supervision

The role of the mining supervisor is quickly becoming one of the best-paying jobs within gold mining, copper mining and lithium mining, alongside many other sectors of resource extraction. The mining supervisor is expected to ensure the safety procedures of their company whilst complying with local, national and international legislation and quality standards on underground operations. 

The mining supervisor would be expected to engage and assist their staff regularly, acting as a mentor alongside their other specific duties:

maintaining employee files and production recordssupporting the continuous professional development of their team anticipating the training needs of their staff both in the present and future

The day-to-day tasks of the mining supervisor will focus on achieving production targets and assuring the quality of the extracted minerals and metals, achieved through directing and inspecting the work of subordinate staff. In addition, coordinating the support and mentorship functions outlined above will also be important, as it will ensure that work is conducted safely.  

As a result, the ideal mining supervisor would have a history of interpersonal communication skills and the ability to evidence extensive experience in motivating staff towards the cooperative team effort of the daily workings of a mine, particularly with a workforce drawn from global recruitment efforts.

Alongside this, a typical mining supervisor would possess a post-secondary qualification in a specialism related to mining, such as geology or engineering, alongside certification from an organisational body such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) or the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). 

Fundamentally, the role of the mining supervisor is to facilitate and direct the activities of the mining team. As such, this role requires a candidate comfortable with all aspects of defining and delegating the tasks of the mining crew, arranging to repair all equipment and liaising with mechanics to put preventative maintenance in place to ensure production schedules and organisational plans are met. 

General management

General managers play a crucial role in the effective and productive operations and construction of mining sites and, as such, are a key target for executive search firms. Senior general managers are responsible for the general direction of mining and reclamation activities at their sites.

As a result, general manager jobs in mining are often fast-paced. Therefore, it calls for a candidate with prior experience managing large-scale engineering projects focusing on safety and production processes. Furthermore, they need knowledge of the preparation of engineering plans and reports and the ability to communicate technical information to various stakeholders. 

General managers are expected to hold professional registration with an engineering body, such as the Engineering Council, alongside a professional project management qualification, such as a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

General managers will work closely with all senior staff, including the aforementioned geologists, supervisors and technical services managers, to manage the day-to-day running of the mine, as well as coordinating with external consultants on inspections, geotechnical analyses and site safety investigations.

Geology

As one of the core scientific roles supporting the geotechnical engineering jobs in mine operations, the senior geologist is responsible for collecting, cataloguing, and analysing ore and mineral samples. The work of the senior geologist is critical to the mining operation—with their laboratory work, field mapping and surveying duties often determining the scale of on-site operations. 

The day-to-day tasks of the senior geologist will involve travelling to the mining site and collecting samples for later analysis: they would look closely at ore quality and address any environmental concerns in mining waste or tailings. At the same time, they would be developing research proposals and studying recent exploratory work to guide the future extraction activities of their companies.

Suitable candidates for the role of senior geologist would often have the following skills and qualifications: 

An undergraduate or postgraduate degree in Geology, Hydrogeology, Petrography or Earth Sciences 

A candidate that continues to advance their professional knowledge whilst in the workplace

Experience in data collection, statistical research, resource management, database management, geological modelling and quality assurance

An ability to collaborate with their colleagues across all mine operations, from consultants and executive management teams to mine supervisors and miners, to develop new approaches and ensure adherence to industry and environmental standards.

The senior geologist will often also be vital in solving the problem of the waste and tailings generated by mining operations, as well as leading efforts on controlling the grade of the mine, whether underground or open pit. Senior geologists may also specialise in mining hydrogeologist jobs, focusing on utilising software to model groundwater flow and designing exploratory boreholes for sampling purposes. 

Alongside this, senior geologists will increasingly leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning in their roles as mineral exploration continues to be carried out by automated vehicles and drilling systems. This means that programming and computer science knowledge would support the future-proofing of a candidate’s position.

Senior geologists will often be housed on-site. As such, candidates should consider whether a potential employer offers a relocation package, or travel between the mine site and the point of hire, as there is often a global recruitment drive for these vacancies.

Executive recruitment is critical to the productive and safe operation of sites in the mining, mineral, and metals sectors, particularly as we transition towards an economy based on decarbonisation and green energy. We have several global opportunities available in the industry, and our specialist recruiters will be pleased to assist you in your search.

(This article first appeared on CSG Talent’s blog)

Source: MINING.COM – Read More

 


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