UK Group Tackles Mining Skills Shortage

Faced with a decline in the number and calibre of recently qualified professionals in the minerals extractive sector, a group of leading figures in the mining industry have formed the UK Mining Education Forum (UKMEF). 

This group has written a report to highlight the mining industry’s urgent need for geologists, engineers, and minerals and metals processors, and to justify the continued delivery of these qualifications at Exeter University’s internationally known Camborne School of Mines (CSM).

The group stated:
1. The products of the mining industry are essential for the continuance and development of society – not least in satisfying the burgeoning demand for battery metals. The UK is expected to be particularly impacted by the need for a reliable supply of raw materials.

2. Geologists, mining engineers and mineral processors are required to make the mining industry function, and the supply of new graduates is much diminished.

3. The mining industry is showing a resurgence globally, with an estimated annual demand for over 1,300 mining engineers and 500 mineral processors in the market-economy countries.

4. Mining and mineral processing engineers working for British companies (in the UK or abroad) make an important contribution to the UK’s GDP. Moreover, those working for foreign companies abroad (and many of these companies also have offices in London) are acting as ambassadors for British engineering, mining services and equipment providers.

5. Camborne School of Mines is now the only UK institution capable of teaching mining engineering and mineral processing to the required standard, and the school is actively engaged in developing content required for the modern industry worldwide.

6. Because of the reputation of its graduates, CSM has excellent connectivity with all aspects of the industry globally. Additionally, almost one-quarter (by market value) of the world’s listed mining companies are headquartered in the UK, and these companies have registered their support for the continuance of UK mining degrees.

Andrew Fulton, general manager of the ICL Boulby polyhalite mine in East Cleveland, UK, and president of the Mining Association of the UK, said, “Whilst Boulby is one of the UK’s biggest mining operations, it is not widely understood that there are many hundreds of mines in all parts of the country, from Cornwall to Scotland, providing a huge range of materials crucial to the economy.

“In the case of Boulby, for example, we are the world’s first and only producer of the mineral polyhalite (marketed as Polysulphate), which provides fertilizer products for farmers and growers across five continents.

“Developing such a ground-breaking operation involves a huge range of technologies and skills, which is why we strongly support the UKMEF’s work and its plans to expand education programmes to attract the highly skilled workforce needed for our company and the sector as a whole.

“The challenge is substantial – the Forum report suggests that the UK needs to recruit over 60 new mining and minerals processing graduates every year, yet none have enrolled in undergraduate programs since 2019.

“UKMEF can play a vital role in working with education stakeholders to develop and promote the range of courses which can ensure mining remains at the forefront of making an essential contribution to the economy, and provide rewarding opportunities and careers for young people.”

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