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The mining industry sees huge growth in automation: what does this mean for workers? 

3 Min Read

Gregsons takes a look at the increasing automation within the mining industry and considers the impact this will have on our workers. Interested in the latest mining news? You can stay up to date with the WA mining industry and our upcoming mining auctions by subscribing to our newsletter via our homepage: https://www.gregsons.com.au/ 

From the latest apps to self-checkouts, the continuous advancements in technology mean most people experience some form of automation in their daily lives. But Western Australia is expecting a specific type of automation in the mining industry over the next few years. 

 

Western Australia’s Mining Boom

Since the peak of the last mining boom in 2013, the demand for mining jobs has decreased with an almost 30% decline by 2016. 

Fast-forward a few years, and things are looking up for WA again. With the strength of gold and iron ore growing steadily, there’s been an increased demand for workers. WA mining jobs are now at their highest level since the last boom, with more than 106,000 people in employment as of 2019 (compared to 116,000 in 2013).But this time, the mining industry is taking a different approach: automation is at the forefront of many mining jobs and training programs.

So what does this mean for mining workers? 

 

Education is Changing

Automated processes mean there are new skills in demand, and it’s the dual responsibility of the mining and education sector to ensure our future workers are trained and prepared for this new style of work. 

The WA State Training Board is currently working with the mining industry and Perth’s South Metropolitan TAFE to develop three new courses that are relevant and required for mining-specific technology, while Curtin University’s WA School of Mines will roll out a new curriculum in 2020, to focus on emerging areas like robotics and data analytics.

The West Australian reports that employees who have worked in the mining industry for decades are also looking to upskill themselves to keep up with the changing times, as more training ensures they are “prepared for each change” in the evolving landscape of mining automation.

 

Concern for Workers

It’s estimated that over 30% of jobs in the Pilbara region (WA’s biggest mining employer) could be affected by automation, which creates a huge degree of uncertainty amongst the workforce.

While the move to automation brings with it a degree of uncertainty and concerns over job security, education authorities want to reassure workers that a change of pace doesn’t equate to being replaced. TAFE lecturer Louise Rubelo spoke to The West Australian: “We understand that our job is changing, not necessarily being eliminated, and that we become pioneers in taking on that new technology.” 

 

Improved Efficiency & Quality Control

While the move towards autonomous technology is being met with mixed feelings amongst the mining workforce, supporters of the move say automated processes are expected to empower workers, rather than alienate them. 

Mining Executive Alex Atkins spoke to Create Digital: “Autonomous mines can be used to pull people out of highly laborious and dangerous roles and put them into roles where they get to lift the living standards of their country”.

 

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