Earlier in 2021, Australia closed its borders to stem the spread of COVID-19 and shut down the application of foreign employee-sponsored work visas. This has resulted in a critical skills shortage in its mining sector that needs to be addressed urgently with the assistance of employment of foreign skilled workers. There is a serious need for a range of mining professionals, most notably engineers, who are in the shortest supply. The number of mining engineer graduates to come out of Australia in 2021 is a woefully low 55, and the only viable way of increasing this is to bring in foreign graduates, including those from South Africa.

To address this, Australia recently made the decision to reopen its borders as well as applications for employer-sponsored visas for critical skills workers, and South Africans will be able once again to join the mines in the country.

What skills are in short supply?

As well as mining engineers, professionals in short supply include metallurgists, electricians, and a range of professionals specialising in areas in the underground mining industry. From underground jumbo operators to longhole drillers, technicians, geologists, to human resource managers and shift bosses, there are many positions on offer for foreigners in mines down under.

According to a report commissioned by Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy from a consultancy called Pit Crew, up to 40,000 more workers are needed to join the country’s mining sector over the course of the next two years. The country is therefore making efforts to attract qualified expatriates to meet this number. Where mining companies cannot find suitable Australians to fill positions in their projects, foreign expatriates on Australian employer-sponsored visas will be employed for these roles.

How do Australian companies sponsor foreign employees?

There are a few ways that Australian employers can go about sponsoring foreign workers to join them on this visa, which is called the Temporary Skills Shortage Visa. They can apply for the workers’ visas through a Short-Term stream for skilled foreigners whereby the nominated employees will be employed for up to two years. Otherwise, they can go the route of the Medium-Term or Long-Term stream for the employment of highly skilled foreign workers. This would allow the expatriates to stay for up to four years in the company’s employment, in which they become eligible to apply for permanent residence after three years. Companies can nominate extra positions for this particular stream.

If you are a South African seeking a mining job overseas, you may consider working in Australia as your next career move. Visit the CA Mining Job Board to view the latest mining occupations available in Australia.