On April 9th, I attended the EXPOMIN in Santiago, Chile. It is one of the largest mining industry expositions in Latin America. It included displays from more than 1,300 exhibitors and had more than 60,000 visitors from numerous countries. It was great to see how Chile, a mineral rich country with only 16 million people, is attracting a huge amount of investment. But these investments come with some challenges, and one of them is people.
During the opening of the conference, the Mining Minister of Chile, Hernan de Solminihac T., mentioned that the lack of qualified people as one of the top challenges for mining in the region and worldwide. He mentioned specifically that Chile would need 69,000 people by year 2015 in order to capture all the mining investments.
That is why, in order to resolve this problem and capture the opportunity as a country, they need the new generation of young Chileans to pursue the mining profession as a career with a good salary and feel that they are working with the latest and greatest in technology. To prove this assertion, he pointed out to all the exhibitors showing all kinds of technology, but he emphasized in the ones showcasing fully automate heavy machinery and simulation, and how that technology is the best worldwide and is been tested and implemented in Chile.
In addition, he pointed out the importance of attracting more women into this industry. He mentioned that only 9% of the work force in mining in Chile is female. With the use of technology, women can perform a much greater role in this industry—one that traditionally has been mostly male.
No doubt Chile is taking this challenge seriously and it was amazing to see how, during the exhibits, mining companies and universities are aggressively recruiting young people by offering scholarships to sign up for programs geared towards this industry. I think it is great that a country like Chile is recognizing and taking advantage of the opportunity to provide education and work for its citizens, and in addition, breaking traditional gender barriers.
I also believe this trend will happen not just in Chile, but also worldwide since this scarcity of technically qualified workers is seen in many places. Countries would have to invest heavily in promoting and attracting the new generation of workers if they want to succeed. For the mining industry, technical expertise to fill this need will not be limited by gender.