Natural resources boom — workers needed

Mine workers are in such short supply in Western Australia that The Wall Street Journal reported on a 25-year-old high school dropout earning $200,000 a year running drills underground.

The article also quotes the CEO of mining firm Rio Tinto that there is double-digit wage growth in Western Australia as well as other mining hot spots such as Chile and Africa. Increasing demand from China and other emerging economies is fueling the need for natural resources.

Even here in the United States, the natural resources sector is bringing jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the mining industry, as of last month, added 152,000 jobs since the low point of the recession in October 2009.

North Dakota, which is experiencing an oil boom, posted the largest year-over-year increase in nonfarm employment among all states in September. And it posted the lowest state unemployment rate at 3.5 percent.  One county in North Dakota, Williams County, is currently running at 0.9% unemployment, likely the lowest in the nation.

North Dakota’s mining sector added 4,800 jobs between September 2011 and September 2010, according to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that were not seasonally adjusted

Western North Dakota is luring so many people that rents for two-bedroom apartments are going for as much as $2,000 a month, The Washington Post reported.

It appears the mining sector may represent an opportunity for staffing firms.

However, now may be the time to act. The labor shortage in some areas such as Western Australia has prompted mining firms to be creative.

Rio Tinto this month announced plans to buy 150 driverless trucks from Komatsu Ltd. of Japan over the next four years. The move would make it the owner of the largest fleet of driverless trucks in the world. The vehicles will be used in Rio Tinto’s Pilbara iron ore mines in Western Australia. In addition, Rio Tinto plans more widespread use of automated drills in Pilbara and at coal and copper mines.

Labor shortage is the bread and butter of recruiting, so opportunity abounds for staffing in the natural resources arena.  Petroleum experts say the North Dakota find is still in its infancy, and a large petroleum company has just leased a large land tract in South Dakota, presumably based on expectation of an oil find.  So this should keep going for some time.


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