This is the fourth article of a six-part series exploring the trends and key themes that are shaping the future of the mining industry. 

As the mining industry continues to evolve so should its workforce. Now more than ever, industry professionals need to examine the skills needed in a rapidly changing sector and consider how to best prepare for changes in the industry and workplace. The key themes around the future mining workforce are:

  • 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution)
  • Cyber security 
  • Innovation 
  • Climate change 
  • Climate policy 
  • Community conflicts 
  • Safety 
  • Inclusion and diversity 
  • Protectionism 
  • Employment models 

The key themes are further defined by the role activities of the future mining workforce which are discussed further below. 

Artificial Intelligence 

The role activities associated with AI will require knowledge of software development, computer science and machine learning. The deliverables will include:

  • Data translation; understanding and aligning operational processes  with data flow and key metrics for success
  • Define how to use AI to better plan and execute across operations
  • Define process automation, robotics, and Edge Intelligence and plan  for mainstream availability of 5G
  • Work with Industrial Automation Specialists and PLC  (programmable logic controller) and SCADA (supervisory  control and data acquisition) systems
  • Innovation, research and development

Data science and data analysis

The role activities related to data science and data analysis will require critical thinking skills, networking skills, an innovation mindset to be able to deliver the following:

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  • Collaborate with product design and engineering (as well as HR/corporate relations/other functions) to develop an  understanding of needs
  • Enable smarter business processes—and implement analytics for meaningful insights
  • Communicate findings (and convey meaning/insights) to all stakeholders
  • Research and devise innovative statistical models for data analysis
  • Keep current with mining technology and industry developments

Digital transformation

The role activities associated with digital transformation will delve into technical knowledge, and analytical and strategic thinking to be able to deliver the following:

  • Overseeing internal changes that the company will have to undergo (internal program changes/governance)
  • Identify main challenges/bottlenecks needed to be worked through
  • Working on the product portfolio (and stakeholder management)— assess the effectiveness of digital transformation, including the identification and assessment of tools
  • Articulate digital strategy to the commercial client (e.g., how does  it connect to the business—enabling the broader business)
  • Assess cultural changes required to enable the digital transformation (internal and external)

Social-economic development 

To enhance the future workforce in social-economic development, skills such as community negotiation, application of inclusion and diversity strategies will enable the following:

  • Appraisals of current projects and how that links to internal work
  • Understand how communities will evolve in a certain timeframe  (government/political changes and how that would affect investments coming into the country)
  • Connect to the wider community and build partnerships (public/private)
  • Determine the investments that would need to be taken  (based on risks and opportunities)
  • Leading how the company will integrate the projects they are undertaking with their wider ESG framework (ability to translate from traditional corporate social responsibility work into ESG narrative)
  • Review infrastructure and workers’ communications  (grievance mechanisms etc.)

Circular economy and sustainability.

The conversations around circular economy and sustainability will be driven by sustainability knowledge, influence skills and supply chain knowledge to deliver the following:

  • Surveying external environment, industry-related circular economy research and shaping circular strategy
  • Identifying emerging risks/managing risks and providing  relevant expertise
  • A current state review of operations/processes and identifying  pain points and how best to mitigate
  • Understand client perspectives/trends/needs and work to achieve requirements (relevant to future demand across the value chain)  and build partnerships
  • Generate innovative ideas relevant to sustainability  (e.g., decarbonization)

Climate change science 

This has been one important topic whether you are pro or against. A lot has been said about it and it continues to make headlines which translates to the need for social-political knowledge and climate change science knowledge to be able to execute the following: 

  • Risk management activities (e.g., assess the impact on infrastructure/ commercial risk assessment)
  • Advisory to business leaders/roles and integration to other  programs/enterprise architecture
  • Change advocacy (rally people that issues are critical to deal with)
  • External stakeholder management
  • Research and insights inside/outside of the industry

Government relations 

The ability to influence the mining industry, adaptability and work in a challenging environment will be determinants of success in achieving the following:

  • Surveying political/historical environment for countries where company operates and identify risks/opportunities
  • Engage with the government to support the business in implementing  its strategy
  • Understanding culture and making decisions/building partnerships  on that basis (locally/internationally)
  • Build relationships/partnerships and have social intellect (soft skills for building these relationships)
  • Support social performance of the company

Safety and disaster risk management.

Technical safety risk management, knowledge of security risk and geopolitical landscape will be key in the ability to undertake the following tasks:

  • Undertake climate resilience/risk mitigation work as part  of disaster risk management
  • Set up disaster risk management within the context of future  scenarios (conflict/geopolitical strife/intensity of climate change) 
  • Connect the wider regulatory guidelines/standards to how  these risk strategies are implemented 
  • Quantify the risks of inaction (cost of inaction if certain measures  aren’t put in place
  • Identify key partners/entities who can mitigate the risks  (implement mitigation strategies)

Strategic policy

Communications and management with a background in public policy will blend into the skillset of the mining workforce that will be able to deliver the following:

  • External stakeholder management 
  • Market/geopolitical scenarios analysis 
  • Strategy design and influence management 
  • Risk management 
  • Drive internal/external collaboration

Deloitte reiterates that the global pandemic resulting from the novel COVID-19 virus has seen organizations around the globe change how and where work gets done in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Accenture adds to the conversation by stating that emerging technologies are not the only factors weighing heavily on future business models.  GRT also talks about the agility in COVID-19 times with a 5 horizon response. The urgency of climate adaptation and the need to navigate geopolitical uncertainty also have the power to dramatically reshape the business environment. All these factors will be key in delivering the future mining workforce.

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