Automation & future work force

Focus areas

The advent of automation and digitisation offers both opportunities and risks to the mining sector. While promising greater efficiency and safety, automation could carry risks of increased conflict with workers as the traditionally manual industry becomes increasingly dominated by unmanned trucks, processing technology and back-office logistics.

There is concern that automation could lead to mass unemployment in developing economies which are heavily reliant on the industry. In such circumstances, the relationship between mining companies and the communities living near mine sites will change dramatically. Automation could also cause GDP contributions for low and middle-income countries to drop by up to $284m per country, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

The investor focus on tailings dams to date has revealed serious questions about the pipeline of talent and expertise entering the mining sector. The industry is suffering a brain drain of mid-level professionals, as millennials shun mining courses and recruitment rates fail to replace employees leaving for other sectors or retirement. Such shortages come at a time when an injection of mining expertise is crucial as the industry steps up to meet the mineral demands of the low-carbon transition.