Workers excited about mining’s high-tech future, survey finds

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Australia’s miners are excited about a high-tech future with AI and automation and are willing to upskill and retrain in order to be a part of it, a new survey finds.

Australia’s mining workforce has an upbeat view of technology’s role in the future of mining and its potential impact on jobs.

A survey by Mining People’s Polling/Media Centre found 56% of people working in the industry believed “smart mines” — which use artificial intelligence and automation — would have a positive effect on their job prospects.

Just 21.8% worried smart mines would have a negative effect — and the same number didn’t think this kind of technology would have an impact at all.

It’s an encouraging result when 77% of people surveyed felt their job prospects would be not affected at all, or positively affected.

It and shows how willing people working in the industry are to embrace the technological advances coming down the line which are set to revolutionise our industry. 

Why do miners feel so positively about technology?

When we asked respondents why they felt the way they felt, a few key themes emerged. We supplied a dozen possible responses to choose from and respondents were asked to tick all that they felt applied to them. These were the top replies:

  • 20%     Smart mines are just the next logical step and I’m excited to be a part of it
  • 16%     My job will become more high-tech with smart mines
  • 12.6%  I will have to upskill in order to keep my mining job/career
  • 12.5%  My job really needs a human and can’t be easily replaced by automation or AI
  • 10%     I’m already gaining/have the technical skills required to ensure I have good job prospects in the future
  • 4.6%    My job is dangerous and smart mine technology will make it safer for me to do my work, which might keep me in the industry longer.

Although some of these responses could be interpreted in more than one way, the emerging theme is a willingness to embrace technological change and to grow with it, rather than fight against it.

This particularly becomes clear when you compare the figures above with those of explicitly negative responses.

  • 6%       My job is already under threat from AI or automation
  • 2%       I’ve already lost a job to AI or automation
  • 2%       I will have left the industry before smart mines ever get here
  • 3%       The company I work for doesn’t have the money to invest in smart mine technology.

Of those who responded, 44% were in management or supervisory roles and 56% were not.

It’s time to end the anti-technology cliché

There’s an assumption, or a cliché, that mining industry employees will be naturally against technology — that they will see it as a threat to their employment. Perhaps it suits certain groups to push this line — including unions and even the media. But that’s not what is borne out by the results from this survey.

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In fact, the people who work in our industry are keen on technology. It’ll make their jobs safer, easier, and more efficient. It will help extend their careers in the industry, and they’re ready to upskill, re-skill and train in order to take advantage of that.

That means investing in technology is a win-win for any mining company — and that’s certainly good and refreshing news at a time when our industry is looking for ways to meet the market’s demands while the skilled and experienced people we need are becoming harder and harder to find.

If you are looking for deep insights into the mining markets and would like MPi to conduct some targeted industry research on your behalf, then please email us.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International