Australia: Mining industry looks to immigration for skilled workers

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A new report commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia states that the Australian mining industry will need an additional 90,000 workers by 2020 to keep up with demand in the growing industry. The report said that increasing skilled migration is one step towards achieving this goal.

The report forecasted a 6 percent annual employment growth rate to 2012, double the Australian government's estimate of 3 percent and "far higher" than previous industry forecasts.

Due to the minerals and energy requirements of India and China, Australia is expected to make it through largely unaffected by the recent uncertainty in global financial markets resulting from the slump in the United States housing market.

"We are confident we are three years into a 'super cycle' of global demand for our products - a decade and more of sustained demand - which some consider could even last twenty years," said Minerals Council Chief Executive Mitchell H. Hooke.

"The report found that more than half the growth in jobs will occur in Western Australia, Queensland's minerals industry labour force will grow by 50 percent and South Australia's demand for minerals workers will more than double", Hooke added.

Skilled migration is seen as an important source of employees for the mining industry. Mining professions, among many other occupations, are listed on Australia's Skilled Occupation List, for which the government grants permanent visas under its General Skilled Migration program.

"While the Minerals Council welcomes recent Federal Government initiatives to increase the number of skilled training places and streamline temporary visa applications for skilled immigration, more must be done to[...]further increase skilled migration," Hooke said.

However, the Australian government has not been sitting idly by while Australian employers clamor for more skilled immigrants. Recently, the Australian government increased the number of skilled migration places for the current year, increasing the quota from 102.500 to 133,500 for 2008-09.