Canada’s Mining Workforce is Changing
How we find, build, operate and reclaim mines in Canada is being rapidly transformed by innovative technologies. Driverless trucks, blockchain, drones, robotics, and other modern tools are facilitating greater efficiencies in day-to-day operations. Innovative technologies also allow for gains in productivity, healthier and safer workplaces and increased environmental sustainability. The Canadian mining industry needs to access deeper, narrower, and more complex deposits, and new, more sophisticated technologies are helping to achieve these goals. Necessary at all stages of the mining cycle, innovative technologies fundamentally alter the ways resources are defined, extracted, processed, and transported.
The benefits of adopting technological change are evident and becoming more persistent in all industries, but Canadian mining companies continue to face several organizational barriers to adopting innovation since the design of mines and processing plants have not changed significantly in decades. The achievement of transformational change requires a new vision for mining that is ambitious enough to drive a change in performance and operational goals.
Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to re-evaluate how technologies can be leveraged to help mines continue operations in response to shifting government restrictions and internal controls that limit travel and the number of people on site– fundamentally changing the way mines operate and how people work. These new technologies not only rapidly alter individual occupations, but also change the baseline educational requirements and skills needed to enter the mining workforce.
While numerous studies have evaluated the scope of technological innovation in mining, very few have considered the overarching impact of innovation on the mining industry workforce. The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) enhances understanding of this topic in its inaugural report, The Changing Nature of Work: Innovation, Automation and Canada’s Mining Workforce.
This report explores three main topics: understanding innovation in mining, workers at risk of disruption (occupational vulnerability), and the mining skills of the future. The report also introduces MiHR’s Occupational Vulnerability Index (MOVI), a composite score that gauges how susceptible certain occupations are to the effects of technological disruption. The MOVI allows employers, governments, and training providers to assess which workers will be the most at risk of disruption and identify those that would benefit most from training resources to help adapt to new technologies. Findings from MOVI revealed that the greater part of the mining workforce is employed in occupations with higher vulnerability to new technologies with the most vulnerable working in production.
The report also includes a skills-to-occupations mapping to estimate the future shift in demand for selected workforce skills. In the future, workers will require skills related to active learning, reading comprehension, judgement and decision making, and complex problem solving.
We live in a time of accelerated technological adoption, making these findings increasingly more relevant. Technology, if used correctly, will play a key role in restoring flexibility and agility to mining company value chains, and will ensure workers are safe and healthy through the economic recovery phase of this pandemic. Lessons learned throughout this process can help increase the overall robustness of the industry moving forward.
The report is available at www.MiHR.ca.
About the Author
Ryan Montpellier is the Executive Director of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council. He has over 15 years of experience in identifying and addressing human resources and labour market challenges in the Canadian mining industry.
The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) is an independent, non-profit organization that leads collaboration among mining and exploration companies, organized labour, contractors, educational institutions, industry associations and Indigenous groups to identify and address the human resource and labour market challenges facing the Canadian minerals and metals sector.