Australian mining industry workforce trends

February 4, 2020

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With factors that include the growing role of technology, fluctuations in project development and commodity prices, the Australian mining industry is set to see some interesting recruitment trends in 2020.

In this article, we’ll talk through some of the biggest factors affecting hiring in the industry this year.

Commodity-driven recruitment trends

As might be expected, some commodities are currently performing better than others. For example, coal and iron ore remain solid performers with demand expected to remain solid in 2020. Some base metals such as gold and copper also appear to have positive 2020 demand and price outlooks.

Over the next year, we expect to see ongoing demand for experienced professionals with expertise in the following areas:

  • Coal (in particular metallurgical coal), on the Australian East coast. Demand is likely to be particularly acute for professionals with longwall expertise due to the ongoing industry shortage in this skill set.
  • Iron ore - demand for professionals in this area will continue to be strong along the West Coast.
  • Gold, copper and some related hard rock commodities - base metal operations such as these tend to be dotted in more remote areas around the world and this is also true in Australia. These areas are likely to continue to have a strong demand for expertise, especially those experienced in underground mining, mineral processing and other specialist areas.

There are some commodity prices, such as alumina and lithium, that are expected to be fairly flat in 2020. Most staffing demand in these commodities will be due to staff turnover - unless commodity prices change dramatically.

Demand for leadership and specialists

The mining industry has generally always had demand for good leaders and specialists who play key roles, hold essential tickets (i.e. statutory tickets) or add value.

However, these professionals are often in short supply, difficult to find, currently employed and are reluctant to move from their current employer.

True leadership remains a key demand for many in the mining industry and this is likely to continue in 2020. While some companies have moved away from significant site-based leadership accountability, others continue to see the value of having highly capable professionals in site and corporate-based leadership roles. As a result, they tend to get better production outcomes and more development of their people, which is key to the future of the industry.

This is similar with highly specialised technical professionals who bring proven capability in a key area or niche skill set. The last couple of years have seen many companies begin to seek professionals who truly add extra value, particularly in relation to production outcomes. This is something we expect to continue into 2020.

Technology and innovation

Expertise in technology and innovation remains in growing demand across many players and commodities. Though it could be argued that mining is slightly behind the oil & gas industry in this space, the investment and interest from senior leadership is still strong.

As the role of technology grows within the mining sector, the ability to deliver and execute will become a bigger factor to mining operations success. There will be an increase in demand for professionals with a proven track record in improving outcomes by implementing technology in the mining industry.


Location, combined with skills shortage, is always a factor for staffing needs in the mining industry.

Thanks to the positive outlook for some base metals, there is continued demand for staff in many remote mining operations. When this is combined with the industry-wide shortages and the demand for specialist skills, we’re looking at a very competitive landscape for hiring staff in Australia.

An increasingly implemented solution to this issue has been to search further afield for talent. Airswift were involved in a number of international sourcing campaigns in 2019 and feedback from the industry means 2020 is likely to see this trend increase.

Mining projects

While an increase in project development was evident in 2019, it’s unlikely that Australia’s mining industry will see any significant year on year increase in demand for project-specific professionals in 2020, although the industry remains hopeful for 2021-22.


We have already seen evidence of a strong interest in new recruitment and replacing turnover in 2020. This has mainly been in specialist site operational and leadership roles, including interest in bringing in international candidates in key skill shortage areas.

However, the players in the mining industry will likely continue to have widely different expectations and approaches to meeting their staffing needs in 2020. While the overall feeling is positive, it does vary greatly from organisation to organisation.

Here at Airswift, we’re experts in providing workforce solutions to the mining and metals industry. Visit our mining and metals service page to find out about the challenges faced by hiring managers in the industry, and how we can help you find the right talent for your projects.

Learn about our mining and metals recruitment services

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This post was written by: Adam Harris, Recruitment Manager - Mining