In the industrial and technological age, we live in, it is said that if it is not mined, then it is grown. That statement highlights the importance of mining to our existence and advancement.
South Africa forms a significant part of the global mining community, contributing roughly 7% of its GDP and employing over 400 000 people.
However, South African graduate mining engineers are struggling to find employment. Why?
In a recent global Quacquarelli Symonds University rankings report, the Wits School of Mines was ranked 15th, making it the best Mining School in Africa.
This gives an indication of the quality of mining engineers in South Africa. Why is it then that the very same degree holders are struggling to find a place in the mining industry?
The answer partially lies with the South African industry itself which has not seen much growth since the last commodity price boom, commodity prices declined and mining companies globally resorted to restructuring in order to improve and preserve their balance sheets.
South African was no exception, which intensified the problem of employment of mining graduates. A critical problem is an oversupply of skills in a local market, a reflection of a communication gap between the industry and academia.
An estimated 130 mining students entered the market as graduates at the start of 2019, half of which will face the challenges of unemployment.
A way forward
Mining graduates should consider looking outside of South Africa for opportunities, with a globally accredited mining degree from Wits University. According to the Minerals Council of Australia, one of the biggest risks to their mining Industry is skills shortage.
The council estimates that based on the current enrolments at eight of the country’s mining schools, the number of graduates in the next three to four years will have fallen to about 50 graduates. The Australian mining industry is absorbing more new mining graduates than the universities can produce.
This provides a unique and golden opportunity for South African mining graduates. Another interesting jurisdiction that provides a unique opportunity for mining graduates can be found in West African, with a booming gold industry and other commodities.
The graph below depicts the exploration and mining activity in West Africa, the region will likely be the largest most attractive mining destination on the continent.
West Africa’s mining development pipeline:
Source: Mining Intelligence
Other jurisdictions such as Canada, South America have buoyant junior mining sectors, and these contribute more to job creation than the major mining companies.
Like so many other high-quality skills, mining graduates are set to leave South Africa leaving a potential gap in our ability and a hole in our succession planning.
Smangaliso Mahlangu is a Mining Engineering Student at Wits University and Co-Founder of Hexriver Resources.
Sizwe Mngomezulu holds a BSc. in Mining Engineering from Wits University’s, a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from the Wits Business School, is also the Co-Founder of Hexriver Resources