Random Analytics: Mining Workforce Planning Scan (Jun 2013)

by Shane Granger

The Mining Workforce Planning Scan is a quasi-quantitative report card built from relevant online industry magazines and media sources. Utilising 14 category metrics the scan collates relevant stories over a calendar month period to give a picture of how the industry is positioned from a workforce planning perspective.

Body Count

After last month’s poor Employment numbers which dipped below -10 negative sentiment for the first time since the commodities crash of August through to October last year I stated that if this route were to continue then I would be very concerned, especially if the numbers being cut were more than just peripheral cost cutting.

The numbers were bad all month but the last week of Financial Year 2012/2013 was especially brutal for coal which reported a loss of more than 1000-jobs in a single week. Gold was also very negative with more jobs and reviews being shed globally.

I’m also not convinced about the big operational employment numbers forecast to come out of future mega-mines such as Kevin’s Corner (QLD) or refining capacity like the Curtis Island facility.

Looking at a recent example of refining from Portugal José Manuel Fernandes stated:

Last April, GALP [a Portuguese energy conglomerate] inaugurated a renovated refinery in Sines. At €1.4bn, it is the biggest industrial investment in the history of Portugal. It will have a huge impact on our balance of payments, because we will export diesel fuel. All of this is excellent, except when it comes to the impact in terms of jobs. Only a hundred people will benefit. That is next to nothing, and it is an example reveals the dilemma of modern economies. Huge investments, including investments in heavy industry, are capable of having a significant impact on competitivity and on the trade balance, but they create very few jobs. Sometimes they even reduce the number of employees. What is true of GALP is also true for most of the industrial sectors in Portugal, as well as for the rest of Europe.

It’s been a tough month for mining and I’m not convinced we have seen an end to the bad news.


Employment was the leading category with 38-stories (41.3%), the fifth month in a row and a record high over 18-months of data analysis. The next highest Employment tally was September 2012 with 36-stories (39.6%).

Like April, WH&S (Work Health & Safety) was the second leading category with 14-stories (15.2%) and IR (Industrial Relations) and FIFO/DIDO were equal third with 9-stories (9.8%).

If you want to get a feel for where mining is going there have been no stories recorded for SkillsShort (Skills Shortages) in June and only one article, thus far, in 2013. For context during the period Jan-Jun 2012 there were six SkillsShort stories.

What this is telling me is that mining is cutting employee’s quickly enough that new ventures have enough candidates to fill most of their hard-to-fill and critical roles and the operational critical roles (generally only around 5% of a workforce) are holding onto positions rather than risk a move.

2 - Mining_Categories_Jun2013

Positive/Negative Index

From a +4 in March Employment has been on a steady reversal in terms of sentiment. Returning a -4 in April (-8 points) it has continued its rapid decline with -11 recorded in May (-7 points) and most recently a -16 (-5 points). Only September 2012 was more negative when a -20 was recorded.

On the positive side both Engagement & FIFO/DIDO recorded the monthly high of +3. Engagement usually tracks pretty well but FIFO/DIDO as the best indicator for the month comes as a surprise. Looking at the detail there was only one negative story which looked at FIFO mental health and four positives. Two of the positives looked at changing the FIFO/DIDO workforce to better suit local conditions, one was a response to the negative press FIFO has received and another was a FIFO support consultancy which is owned and operated by a miner’s spouse.

3 - Mining_PosNegIndex_Jun2013

Mining Employment Gains & Losses

May was the second month that saw 2013 new employment numbers fewer than 1,000, although there were some employment projections as far out as 2020.

4 - Mining_Employment_Jun2013

Here’s a look at the June data.

5 - Mining_Data_Jun2013

Story of the Month

FIFO is a tough business, especially for families so it was nice to see the story on Anna Rushton (I’ve linked the original story via The West Australian) who has started her own little consultancy FIFO Success. As a mum and wife to a FIFO miner she obviously could see a business opportunity!

Final Thoughts

If we have another set of -10 or worse numbers for Employment sentiment in July we are then in a period similar to the commodities crash from August last year.

Given that production numbers are starting to ramp up (especially as coal and iron ore capacity comes on line), there is softening demand (especially from China) and declining commodity prices I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see more bad news for mining and miners.


Note: My previous Mining Workforce Planning Scan can be found at Random Analytics: Mining Workforce Planning Scan (May 2013).

Updates (10/07/2013)