The mining industry and jobs within it will continue to transmute and evolve in the future with the advancement of digital technology and the impact of increasingly urgent social issues.

Both the sector and its workforces are being shaken up by the progression of robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality technologies, which will be happening concurrently with the growth of public awareness of ESG (environmental, social, and governmental) issues.

These advancing technologies come with many benefits, but they will also result in a reduced need for human work in mining operations.

This means leaders in the sector will need to step up efforts to future-proof the industry.

To do so, they should invest in the regular upskilling of their employees, retain their workforces, and put capital into innovation.

The emphasis on the need for industry leaders to make necessary preparations for the future in order to be ready for these changes was highlighted by Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy platform, worked with idoba, a digital growth service provider, and Sandpit Innovation, a management consultancy, in a report called ‘Future of Worker(s) in the Mining Industry’ that the companies collaborated on to create.

They compiled the report from a simulation scenario they set up and ran during August 2021, in which they brought together experts from the mining as well as other sectors to come up with over 30 possible scenarios for how mining jobs will look in the next 10 years considering the influences of society, technology, and people as these things evolve.

Through the simulation, they found that COVID-19 will have little impact on mining’s future. However, evolving technologies and ESG issues will greatly disrupt and the sector and affect future jobs.

The advancement of technologies such as AR, robotics, and AI will make mining operations more efficient, improve workplace safety, and reduce mining’s harm to the environment due to an increase in automation during operations. Of course, this will mean a decreased need for manpower for many aspects of these operations and even ‘man-less’ mines.

Human involvement will look quite different as a result.

It will be based more on technological competence and skills in complex ESG issues – in other words, in the future miners will need multidisciplinary learning and to hold diverse skills. This is due to the complex, multileveled issues the mining industry will be faced within an increasingly socially complex world.

A multidisciplinary approach to educating miners will provide them with the skills to navigate this new socially aware, tech-driven environment and these issues in a holistic way. A holistic approach will indeed be needed, as one that will allow professionals to take into account every separate issue and how they work together and separately to influence the industry.

This is why leaders in mining will need to experiment and adapt their workforce relations, ensure retention, and change the way workers are managed, educated, and trained, again, with a focus on multiple disciplines in learning models.

They will also need to revise organisational structures, and of course, keep up with a surplus of new information, and rapid digitisation and technology advancement.

And, with environmental concerns greater than ever, mining will be ever more involved in contributing to circular economies. These are some of the recommendations from those who took part in the simulation.

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