Evolving and adapting mining sector talent in 2022

Rapid transformation is currently underway in the global mining and metals sector. Can the skills and experience of this workforce keep up with the pace of change?


Strong environmental, technological and geopolitical influences have accelerated change and transformation in the global mining and metals sector. Rapid change continues in 2022, driven by many factors, including:

  • Technological advancements
  • The desire to move towards zero emissions and zero harm
  • Growing sector-wide focus on ESG 
  • Demand for products to support the green energy transition
  • And the challenge to achieve greater operational efficiencies and profitability through all of this change.

As the sector continues to evolve, so does the skillset that mining businesses need to lead and succeed. Here Daryna Chorna, Associate Partner at Gerard Daniels, explores the recent evolution in mining, and the type of talent that businesses increasingly seek as they adapt and respond.

Technology led and enabled change

Prior to the pandemic, there was already considerable focus on the digitisation and modernisation of mining. Daryna argues that the pandemic further accelerated the pace of this technological change.

“With on site mining workforces being very stretched and needing to periodically scale down, the reliance on technologies like automation have grown, and will continue to shape this sector and its workforce for many years to come,” says Daryna. “Having autonomous operations, and operators working remotely might seem like a significant shift, but it would increase efficiency and productivity, and considerably improve safety outcomes for this sector.”

Many mining businesses have embraced other Industry 4.0 technologies like AI and IoT-enabled platforms, using data, analytics and real-time monitoring to inform operational decision making, improve safety, and achieve greater efficiency and yields. New technologies for treating and processing commodities on site will also facilitate a move towards lower volume production, but higher quality, premium grade materials. This will translate to lower transportation costs, and also cleaner feed materials into customers’ manufacturing processes, contributing to the reduction in Scope 3 emissions.

Calling all change agents

As well as investing in new technologies, mining is re-evaluating the skills and experience it needs to support new technologies and deliver on broader industry transformation. Businesses are continuously assessing external talent pools, considering ways to re-skill existing talent, and devising strategies to attract and retain the right talent to drive businesses forward.

“Naturally, new technologies require businesses to invest in different technical skills. But at executive level our mining sector clients have been equally focused on talent with adaptability, an empathic leadership style and the ability to drive change,” Daryna says. “They are also looking for leaders with proven skills around innovation and entrepreneurship, blended with exceptional influencing and stakeholder management skills.”

Cultural transformation

As the mining sector responds to the green energy transition and turns its focus towards ESG, there has been a transformation in mining operations, and a cultural transformation within the sector too.

“Historically, mining was seen as contributing to the environmental challenges that we face, but in recent times there has been a shift in the mindset of the market, and of mining sector leaders and employees,” says Daryna. “This change has allowed businesses to promote the positive impact that mining and metals can have, and to rebrand and reposition themselves as part of the solution.”

“This shift is transforming the culture of mining organisations, and redefining the talent that wants to work in this sector and be part of this change,” she continues. “Some major industry players have engaged very early in the recruitment journey to overturn traditional perceptions of mining and to appeal to more future focused talent. We have been helping clients to achieve this with great success.”

As part of this broad cultural shift the mining sector has also seen a greater focus on employees, employee value proposition, and safety that extends beyond physical health to psychological wellbeing too. “Ultimately, this is a transformation from asset performance to human performance,” Daryna explains. “To be successful businesses must bring these two focuses together to improve performance, and to attract and retain talent in an industry that already faces significant shortages.”

New ways of working

Mining was considered a vital sector throughout the pandemic and was allowed to continue operating in many international jurisdictions. The ways that mining businesses had to adapt to operate during this time have brought about many long lasting changes.

“Staying operational during the pandemic accelerated the need for mining to transition to hybrid and remote working environments,” says Daryna. “These new working models have allowed the sector to remain operational and to adjust quickly. They have also helped to attract and retain more diverse candidates to lead and drive change, and changed the perception of this sector.”

“We’ve seen this change in candidates joining functional roles in mining from other sectors, and in gender diverse talent that left and has now returned to the sector,” she continues.

Although the culture and strategic focus of many mining organisations has undergone significant transformation, change cannot be equally embraced and achieved in all organisations. Working with an experienced executive search firm can help you to develop a deeper understanding of an organisation’s culture, values and ways of operating, before making a commitment to join.

To align your skills and experience with leadership opportunities in mining and metals, reach out to your local Gerard Daniels consulting team.

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