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Overall improvement trend in geoscientist unemployment continues, but self-employed geoscientists still doing it tough

Australian Geoscientist employment survey results for Q4 2018 released.

  • Call also made for greater political action to ensure more equitable and timely access to land for exploration
  • More women also forging geoscience careers

The latest quarterly Australian geoscientist unemployment survey for the final quarter of 2018, conducted during January 2019, revealed a slight increasein geoscientist unemployment, from 8.3% at the end of September, to 9.1% at the end of December 2018. Underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists, however, rose significantly from 12.9% to 18.5% for the same period.

However, despite the dip for the past quarter, the new results pointed to evidence of an overall improving job trend since June 2016.

“This latest quarterly result is disappointing”, Australian Institute of Geoscientists spokesperson, Mr Andrew Waltho said today, “coming at a time when there was genuine optimism regarding an improvement in exploration activity, several, significant new mineral discoveries, and speculation regarding potential skills shortages facing the exploration and mining sectors”.  

Geoscientist employment in Australia June 2009 – December 2018

“Both the Federal Government and Opposition have announced initiatives to support mineral exploration research if elected in the May Federal election, but no-one is talking about improving processes facilitating equitable and timely access to land for exploration,” Mr Waltho said. 

“In fairness, this is a state issue, but we are still seeing bureaucratic and lengthy processes in operation that disadvantage the junior exploration sector in particular, with little sign of change,” Mr Waltho said.

The unemployment and underemployment situation varied widely between states.  Unemployment was lowest in South Australia (5.3%), NSW and ACT (5.6%) and Victoria (5.9%), followed by Western Australia (8.3%).  The results for Victoria and South Australia represent marked improvements on the previous, September quarter survey.  Unemployment in Western Australia was 8.3%, up from 6.5%. Unemployment in Queensland jumped from 11.5% in the September quarter to 15.1% in this survey.

Employment state by state. Too few survey responses were received from South Australia and the Northern Territory for inclusion.

All states except South Australia saw little change or an increase in unemployment in the 12 months between December 2017 and December 2018, but an overall improving trend since June 2016 remains evident.

The underemployment rate in South Australia took some gloss off the positive unemployment figure, coming in at 36.8% for the quarter, followed by Queensland (24.2%), NSW/ACT (16.9%), Western Australia (14.9%) and Victoria (11.8%).  

The survey attracted 391 individual responses.  Too few responses were received from Tasmania and the Northern Territory for the reporting of state results.

Junior exploration and mining companies employ 29% of Australia’s geoscientists according to this survey, almost as many as major and mid-tier companies combined.  

Cultural shift needed

“This amply demonstrates the importance of measures to help small employers avoid burning precious capital waiting for approvals before conducting productive exploration activities” Mr Waltho said.  

“Small companies have a limited capital base on which is difficult to raise further funds and must be used productively if they are to survive,” Mr Waltho said.

“Early career geoscientists tend to be employed in greater numbers by major mining and exploration companies but this soon changes as geoscientists gain professional experience, suggesting that major companies need to look more closely at retaining talent by providing a more dynamic and professionally rewarding professional environment for their staff,” Mr Waltho said.

Sources of employment for Australian geoscientists
Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, by company tier

Women are represented almost equally in the geoscience staff of major, mid-tier and junior exploration companies.  The overall proportion of women in the workforce remains low, but large, mid-sized and junior companies don’t appear to either discriminate or be preferred sources of employment.

“Gender diversity in exploration and mining, long-considered to be a male dominated profession in Australia is changing rapidly” Mr Waltho said. “Almost half of the early career geoscientists (0-5 years’ experience) who responded to this latest survey were women,” Mr Waltho said.  “The sector is clearly creating career opportunities for women that are being taken up and we need to ensure that this trend continues through measures to promote and preserve gender diversity,” he said.

 “A drop in the proportion of women in the 5 – 10 year experience range is evident, but the proportion of women in the profession increases again in the 10 – 15 year range, suggesting, perhaps, that we are seeing the benefit of measures such as flexible employment and favourable parental leave provisions that enable geoscientists to mix raising a family with pursuit of a career. “This again, is something we need to build,” Mr Waltho said.  

Gender diversity amongst survey respondents. Women comprised 45% of early career geoscientists responding to the survey – signs of a very welcome trend towards more women taking up geoscience as their career

“The fact that we are seeing evidence pointing to this is a real positive for both the exploration and mining industry and our profession,” Mr Waltho said.

Bipartisan support by the Coalition and Labor will help our resource sector dig deeper for Australia’s secure future

The peak body for Australia’s 8,000 geoscientists — the Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) — has strongly welcomed commitments from both the Coalition Government and Australian Labor Party to boost support for the exploration of ‘next generation’ hidden mineral deposits in Australia.

“While Australia is endowed with significant mineral resources and the resources sector contributes massively to our economy, the ‘easy to find’ minerals of past decades have largely been discovered and exploited”
AGC President and former AIG President, Dr Bill Shaw, said today.

“There is now a need to explore much deeper underground for the nation’s new ‘hidden’ mineral fields.”

“Bipartisan support is crucial to ensure we champion new exploration approaches, new technologies, extremely accurate data collection and modeling. Not surprisingly, this requires significant long-term investment and the AGC seeks joint bipartisan commitment that will bring renewed confidence.”

“If Australia is to benefit from the huge demand for the minerals supporting sustainable technologies — copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and the rare earth metals needed for solar panels, electric vehicles and the batteries they need for storing renewable energy — significant investment will be required in new technologies and approaches to uncover ‘harder to find’ minerals.”

“The Australian Geoscience Council has been actively involved in the UNCOVER initiative and Decadal Plan for Geoscience — two initiatives of the Australian Academy of Science that have brought together government Geoscience agencies, industry, academia and research bodies in a unique collaboration to initiate and fast-track much-needed Geoscience research, data collection and new technologies to find and better exploit ‘hidden’ mineral deposits deep under the Earth’s surface.”

“A Resources 2030 Taskforce established by the Coalition Government has also focused attention on the need to attract and encourage resource development investment, and many countries are watching how Australia takes this forward as they try to catch up with our initiatives. We also welcome the recent investment in the MinEx CRC and AuScope, which will mesh with and complement further initiatives.”

“It is clear that the world-leading vision of these cross-sector Geoscience collaborations has been noticed, with both the Coalition Government and the Australian Labor Party announcing they will significantly invest in long-term plans to boost and support minerals exploration in Australia.”

“The Australian Geoscience Council notes that the Coalition has just released a National Resources Statement outlining how it will attract investment, develop new resources and markets, and share the benefits of success with more regional communities.”

“This will include supporting the development of new resource provinces through co-operation with state and territory jurisdictions; continuing to invest in advanced seismic and airborne electromagnetic surveys through the $100 million Exploring For The Future program; and improving the consistency and scope of data across the resource sector.”

“Such programs use cutting-edge technology and are having a huge impact on new views of potential minerals and groundwater provinces. The Coalition has also announced priority status for funding applications related to critical minerals projects under the $20 million Round 7 of the Cooperative Research Centres Project.”

“Similarly, we welcome the Australian Labor Party’s announcement of their Future Mines and Jobs plan that will kick-start the discovery of new mines across the country. It will also establish an Australian Future Mines Centre to co-ordinate exploration work and lead the scientific research and development necessary to explore under deep cover. The Centre will be funded through a $23 million Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with input from the Australian Academy of Science and the sector. Labor will encourage industry co-funding as part of the Centre’s work, and will also invest $2 million to provide 100 scholarships to arrest the decline in mining engineering degree commencements.”

“The Australian Geoscience Council strongly welcomes the significant focus of the major parties on supporting the resources sector to discover the next generation of ‘hidden’ mineral resources and increase Australia’s minerals and energy security. The markets and competitive profile around the globe are always changing, and they impact on Australia’s mineral resources and export opportunities, so there is no cause for complacency. We must have the knowledge to be able to plan and act strategically.”

“The years of easy exploration and extraction are largely over. The road ahead is going to require more innovation and substantial lead-times in discovering and developing the resources that Australia and the world needs. These must be found and extracted safely, cleanly and efficiently if we are to continue to support and maintain the community values that we expect in Australia.”

“Recognition by the major parties of these realities – and their understanding that the resources sector remains essential to Australia’s future prosperity, standard of living and resource security – is greatly welcomed in the lead-up to the next federal election and beyond.”

“We look forward to working with all politicians to help put their commitments into action.”

Australian Geoscience Council media release, 19 Feb 2019.

AIG is a member of the Australian Geoscience Council 

Further Information:

More information on UNCOVER can be found here.

The Decadal Plan can be found here.

The Resources 2030 Taskforce Report can be found here.

AGC member societies

AEGC 2019 CALL FOR ABSTRACTS – Open until 22 March 2019

Abstract submissions are welcome for consideration for the AEGC 2019 Conference, to be held on 2-5 September 2019 at Crown Perth. The theme for the 2019 conference is “Data to Discovery”. The AEGC technical program committee has a focus on Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry and how these are applied in exploration for both Petroleum and Mineral systems in Australasia and the wider Asia-Pacific region. We invite you to submit your abstract before the closing deadline at 5pm on Friday 22 March (AWST).  

Early Bird Registration will be opening next month, be sure to secure your spot at the early bird rate!

Further information regarding the conference can be found on the AEGC 2019 website.

Porphyry copper-gold deposits in the circum-Pacific and elsewhere

This workshop will consist of two major parts. The first describes the tectonic and regional controls to copper and gold mineralization in the circum-Pacific region with a focus on the magmatic arcs of Southeast Asia, Western Pacific, Peruvian Andes and Ecuador. The relationships of mineralization to subduction-slab geometry, varying deformational styles, cross-orogen structures, heat- and fluid-flow focussing mechanisms and other controls will be discussed.

The second part of the course will present the geological setting, geochemical signature and geophysical expression of porphyry copper-(gold) systems on the district-scale and provide several global examples. This presentation will cover the key geological ingredients and physical constraints that make for productive porphyry systems. General geochemical zoning, hydrothermal alteration models and geophysical signatures will be presented. Examples from continental and island arc settings will include deposits formed from oxidized magmas in Indonesia and Ecuador, and more reduced magmas in Nevada, with comparisons drawn to the intrusion-related gold deposits in Alaska-Yukon. Exploration models will be discussed for porphyry deposits in different geological settings, erosion levels and weathering environments.

For further information, view this workshop in the AIG events calendar

This workshop is post-conference workshop SC6 for the PACRIM 2019 conference. Click here for the workshop brochure.

Presenter: Dr Steve Garwin

Steve has 30 years of experience as an exploration geologist with large and small mining companies. He has participated in the gold and copper projects of more than 26 clients in over 16 countries. He worked with Newmont Mining for ten years, including two years as Chief Geologist in Nevada.

He is one of the leading authorities on porphyry, epithermal and Carlin-style mineralization in the circum-Pacific. Steve has been involved in major exploration and mining projects, including the Batu Hijau porphyry mine in Indonesia, the mines of the Carlin and Battle Mountain Trends in Nevada, and the world-class Alpala porphyry deposit in Ecuador.

Applied exploration geochemistry workshop

“The Fallacy of the Deep”

IMEx Consulting is conducting a one-day Exploration Geochemistry workshop focussing on Interactive Data Analysis

Wednesday 6thMarch 2019 at the Transcontinental Hotel, 482 George St, Brisbane.

All participants will need to provide a laptop computer & have ioGAS preloaded (demo version OK). 

The workshop is limited to 15 participants.

Click here for the workshop brochure which includes registration details.  Registrations are requested before Friday 22nd February, 2019.

For further information contact: Mark Arundell.
E: workshop@imex.net.au

Multi-element analysis of geochemical samples is now common practice in mineral exploration. Voluminous data is being generated but potentially is not fully utilised by project geoscientists.

Traditional anomaly definition of geochemical data has tended to focus on the highest numbers in selected target elements. However, in many circumstances the highest numbers may not be the most significant given the geological context.

This workshop focusses on more informative techniques of viewing and visualising geochemical data.  This style of targeting focuses on placing allof the geochemical data into a richer geological context.

This is a “hands-on” workshop illustrating & applying these techniques. The workshop is directed to allgeoscientists who want to extract more from their data.

Mark Arundell has over 30 years’ experience in exploration geology and in the use of multi-element geochemistry to find ore deposits.  Mike Whitbread has over 20 years’ experience as an exploration geochemist working both for major companies & as a consultant.

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