Mining industry expected to lose 53% of skilled workers by 2029

| Published on April 16, 2014

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The mining industry is expected to lose more than half of its skilled laborers by 2029, according to a report update released Wednesday from the Government and Public Affairs Committee of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME).

The technical briefing paper, “Workforce Trends in the U.S. Mining Industry,” examines projected data for the entire mining industry. The data come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The paper notes that by 2019, the mining industry will grow by about 50,000 workers. However, an additional 78,000 workers are expected to retire by then, leaving a gap of 128,000 skilled positions.

The report adds that the skill and knowledge gap will grow more by 2029, when 52 percent (about 221,000 workers) of the industry’s skilled workers will have retired.

According to the briefing, the number of mining and mineral engineering programs at U.S. colleges and universities has fallen from 25 in 1982 to 14 in 2014, while the number of faculty in the programs has declined from about 120 in 1984 to approximately 70 in 2014.

Additionally, federal funding of studies and research in mining has declined, and all of the funding for mining schools under the Mining and Mineral Resource Institutes Act of 1984 stopped when the former federal Bureau of Mines dissolved.

The paper offers two legislative solutions: S. 1600 Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 and The Energy and Mineral Schools Reinvestment Act (EMSRA).

The S. 1600 Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 has the the Secretary of Labor to assess the number of technically trained personnel available in the U.S. and helps create a four-year grant program for colleges and universities to implement mining programs.

The EMSRA would provide funding to boost the number of schools with mining and mining-related programs and students pursuing degrees in those programs.

To read the full briefing paper, click here.

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