Report offers insights on mining workforce trends

By |  September 3, 2015

The National Research Council released a report titled “Emerging Workforce Trends in the U.S. Energy and Mining Industries.”

The report is available for purchase in paperback form or as a free download.

According to the report, the U.S. population is projected to increase at a rate of 25 percent by 2050 to more than 400 million people. Demand for energy and minerals will grow along with the population. However, the report indicates that it is unlikely there will be sufficient skilled labor to provide the basic raw materials needed to meet this demand.

As noted in SME’s 2014 technical briefing paper on these workforce trends, by 2029, more than half the current mining industry workforce will be retired, and the number of qualified science and engineering professionals graduating from U.S. schools will not meet the capacity required to fill these vacancies. There has been a steady decline in the number of mining and mineral engineering programs at U.S. colleges, SME adds. The number of programs is down to 14 this year from 25 in 1982.

There has also been a corresponding decline in faculty available to teach the remaining programs, according to SME. As the demand for qualified professionals exceeds the supply, finding and retaining skilled labor is likely to be a lasting problem for the mining industry.

“The long-term challenges that threaten the sustainability of U.S. mining schools and the looming workforce shortage are of utmost importance to the entire mining community,” says David L. Kanagy, SME executive director. “The call to action as found in the ‘Emerging Workforce Trends’ conclusion is both a wakeup call and a battle plan for the future of the U.S. minerals industry.”

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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