Geoscientist employment in Australia continues its slide to record lows

Employment prospects for Australia’s professional geoscientists declined further in the last quarter of 2015 according to the results of the latest quarterly survey by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG).

At 31 December 2015, the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists was 18.7% and the under-employment rate was 23.4%. The combined unemployment and under-employment rate of 42.1% was the highest recorded since the AIG surveys commenced in mid-2009 (Figure 1).

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Figure 1.  Geoscientist unemployment and under-employment in Australia June 2009 – December 2015 

Less than 50% of self-employed geoscientists were able to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload, pointing to a real unemployment rate of 31.1%, also the highest rate recorded by the AIG surveys to date and more than 10% higher than at the peak of the Global Financial Crisis of 2009.

Geoscientist employment declined in every state, except NSW where it remained static, and Victoria where unemployment actually fell but under-employment increased. The greatest increase in unemployment was observed in Queensland, where unemployment and underemployment rates were more than 15% higher than those observed in September 2015, followed by South Australia (Figure 2, Figure 3).

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Figure 2.  Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment by State

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Figure 3.  Changes in geoscientist employment since the previous survey in September 2015

Well over 40% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists have been out of work, or unable to secure their desired level of work for more than 12 months, pointing to a growing pool of long- term unemployed in Australian geoscience.

Almost 70% were not confident of regaining employment within the next 12 months and more than one in 20 indicated that they were turning their backs on their chosen profession due to the dire situation that has surrounded geoscientist employment in Australia for more than two and a half years.

Sentiment amongst geoscientists currently in employment varied.  Some 36% expressed confidence in maintaining their employment for the next 12 months, but 17% were not confident of retaining employment beyond the first quarter of 2016 (Figure 4).

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Figure 4.  Employment sentiment amongst Australian geoscientists

The survey questionnaire was changed for the most recent survey to collect information on employment conditions and how unemployed and under-employed geoscientists were coping with the extended downturn in employment opportunities facing their profession.

Unemployed and under-employed geoscientists were asked how they were coping with their current situation (Figure 5).

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Figure 5.  How Australia’s geoscientists are coping with unemployment and under-employment

Responses in the “Other” category included:

  • establishing new businesses to take advantage of an eventual upturn in Australia’s resource industries;
  • becoming a stay at home parent while their spouse worked;
  • living on superannuation or other savings;
  • reluctantly accepting early retirement;
  • working for free to maintain qualifications and broaden their experience;
  • leaving Australia to pursue opportunities overseas; and,
  • drafting case studies and papers for publication based on their experience.

The employment crisis has also had an impact on the fields in which Australian geoscientists are employed, with mineral exploration feeling the greatest impact (Figure 6).

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Figure 6.  Changes in fields of employment for Australian geoscientists 2014-2015

More than 87% of Australia’s geoscientists currently in employment work as full-time employees. Survey respondents were asked whether their conditions of employment, in terms of salary, associated benefits, hours of work etc., had improved, remained the same or deteriorated since September 2014.  Some 16% of respondents considered their employment conditions to have improved, 59% thought their conditions had remained the same, while the remainder reported that their conditions had deteriorated.  These results are considered encouraging from the point of view that the majority of employers are not seeking to use the difficult conditions facing Australia’s resource industries to reduce working conditions for their staff.

The survey received just over 800 responses, considered to be an excellent result that both provides a statistically robust sample of employment conditions and highlights the commitment of geoscientists to supporting their peers and profession.

AIG President, Mr Wayne Spilsbury, expressed disappointment but no surprise in the latest survey results. “It’s profoundly troubling to see so many highly qualified, experienced, committed professionals unable to apply their skills to contributing to Australia’s economic security,” Mr Spilsbury said.

“The situation in mineral and energy resource exploration is particularly troubling as the prolonged downturn in the sector is damaging Australia’s project development pipeline.

“The low levels of geoscientist employment reflect low levels of exploration activity, which means that we are not making discoveries to maintain Australia’s resource inventory – a scenario which now has the potential to create gaps in critical mineral supplies in coming years,” Mr Spilsbury said.

“Discoveries do not turn into mines overnight. “We’re not exploring now and the industry cannot be switched back on overnight, so we’re facing a real prospect into the latter half of the next decade of reduced development of new projects to support Australia’s economy and standard of living.

“We do applaud the Federal Government`s recent Exploration Development Incentive (EDI) programme, a creative use of tax deductions to stimulate increased investment in mineral exploration in Australia. “However, much of these funds will be spent in the long and non-productive process of securing access to land. “In some states, it can take a year or more once an exploration licence is granted to gain the necessary regulatory approvals to get boots on the ground for the simplest, non-ground-disturbing reconnaissance exploration, ” Mr Spilsbury said.

“Remember, when we talk about a geologist or geophysicist being unemployed in the exploration sector, we’re also talking about three or four other Australians not having an ancillary job. “We also cannot escape the fact that minerals are essential to our daily life, from generation of electricity by any means, to providing raw materials used to ensure our future economic and social well-being.

“Australian geoscientists working in exploration and mining are demonstrably the best in the world when it comes to optimising resource utilisation and ensuring that production proceeds in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner,” Mr Spilsbury said. “We are renowned innovators whose skills are not being used to the benefit of Australia as a whole. “Look around you, if it wasn’t grown – it must have been mined.”

Data Metallogenica

AMIRA International is building Data Metallogenica ( as a web-based not-for-profit global encyclopaedia of ore deposits for the mining industry and associated institutions.  While it is still growing at a rapid rate, Data Metallogenic already contains quality technical information on over 5,000 mineral deposits of all kinds from around the world. It has been supported by over 150 mining & exploration companies, many geological surveys and many professional societies/associations.

DM deposits

Some years ago, the Australian Institute of Geoscientists became a Foundation Sponsor of Data Metallogenica to assist its continued growth.

AIG members, as a result of the Institute’s support for the Data Metallogenica initiative, entitles members to subscribe as individuals to Data Metallogenica for $100 per year for unlimited access and downloads (this is a 50% discount compared to the normal individual subscription rate).  Subscriptions may be purchased on-line via the Data Metallogenica website.  We hope you find Data Metallogenica of interest and can support us in our future growth. This can be done on-line on the website.

Some points of interest:

  • You can do an Advanced Free Search from the Home Page which allows you see what is already in the database (without any commitment)
  • Much of the information is unique or difficult (if not impossible) to find, making the website a major time saver for locating important technical information – all presentations are public (non-confidential) and vetted for quality before loading

The website contains several different databases:

  • Mineral Deposits – technical data on over 5,000 specific deposits around the world
  • Commodity Overviews – global overviews on specific commodities and deposit types by world experts, plus recommended individual deposits to further investigate
  • Regional Overviews – context overviews of major mineralised regions (not yet activated and in its early stages)
  • Technology Overviews – expert reviews of geoscience, exploration and other mining disciplines (not yet activated and in its early stages)
  • Geoscience Thesis Lists – lists of all Australian geoscience theses up to 2007 (soon to be updated, and with addition of all South African geoscience theses to 1999)

The deposit database can be quickly searched by many different criteria eg name, country, commodity class, availability of high-quality sample photographs (70,000 representative samples of ore, alteration, host rocks) or spectral mineralogy, and many special categories such as geology, regolith, core photos, historical data etc

Over 80 full geoscience theses for specific deposits are currently available on the website

All deposits appear on a Google map which can be instantly zoomed to the maximum allowed

Almost all information can be immediately translated to any of about 80 languages making DM extremely valuable for international reference, training and education (eg all European & Scandinavian languages, Arabic, Russian, most Asian languages including Mandarin, Japanese and Hindi, Swahili, Afrikaans etc etc)

Previous sponsors of DM have given free access to many universities and geological surveys in developing countries, helping train the next generation of economic geologists.

It is hoped to add a wiki component soon so others can add their unique information and photos for specific deposits so that we preserve much fragile knowledge before it is too late.

Further information about the Data Metallogenica project and recent developments is provided by presentations on the web site.

If you like what we are doing or what you see, please tell others about Data Metallogenica. Remember the website is continually growing and improvements being added.

Alan Goode
Director – Data Metallogenica
AMIRA International
Level 2, 271 William St
Melbourne 3000

Magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE Workshop


16 CPD HoursMagmatic Ni-Cu-PGE Deposits: a two day workshop to be presented by Dr Michael Lesher, Dr Steve Barnes and Dr James Mungall in Perth W.A., arranged by Geoscientists Symposia, CSIRO and AIG.

Perth WA, 26-27 March 2015

CSIRO Auditorium, Australian Resources Research Centre (ARRC),
26 Dick Perry Avenue
Kensington WA

8:30 am to 5:30 pm daily.

The course will present:

  • an overview of the tectonic, geological, volcanological and petrochemical settings associated with these deposits;
  • review of critical theoretical constraints including mantle melting, metal partitioning and mass balance;
  • physical processes and fluid dynamics;
  • tenor and mineralogy of disseminated ores;
  • case studies of well-characterised systems.

The workshop will be of interest to graduate students and exploration geologists who want an update on this deposit class and exposure to some of the detailed work that has been done on these deposits globally.

The workshop circular provides further information, including profiles of the presenters and registration information.  Bookmark this page for further information regarding this event as it becomes available.

Gold14@Kalgoorlie Symposium


Gold14@Kalgoorlie: an International Symposium in the home of Australia’s gold industry, 8-10 October 2014

Kalgoorlie, home of the Super Pit, is the perfect location for the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) Gold14@Kalgoorlie Symposium to be held between 8-10 October. The symposium will be a truly international event, with delegates attending from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific and bringing together notable geoscientists from academia and the gold industry.

“This conference is shaping up to be the most important gold geoscience conference in Australia since Bicentennial Gold88 in 1988” said the symposium Organizing Committee Chairman and industry consultant Julian Vearncombe.  The highlight is a 3-day conference of talks and posters on various aspects of gold deposits, provinces and exploration.

Keynote speaker, Ed Eshuys, known for his involvement in the Plutonic, Bronzewing and Jundee gold discoveries in WA in the 1990s, will open the conference with an address on the importance of exploration to the Australian economy.

“Australia’s gold exploration story is one of great success” Neil Phillips, a consultant and Adjunct Professor with the University of Melbourne said. “Claims that gold exploration has not been successful are potentially dangerous and may lead to misallocation of exploration and research funding. The Government data shows that Australia is not only replacing the gold that it mines but systematically adding to the inventory.”

“Since 1979, Australia has achieved what no other country has in this period, discovering 16,500 tonnes of gold at a cost of $40 per ounce. This low exploration cost is a measure of how Australia’s exploration industry has been unequivocally successful in discovering gold, especially when compared to today’s gold price of around US$1220.” Professor Phillips said.

Recent Australian gold discoveries include DeGrussa copper-gold deposit (WA), Tropicana deposit (WA), McPhillamys deposit (NSW) and Andy Well (WA). The symposium will also hear of recent successes at Pegasus, and Invincible near Kalgoorlie.

In the last ten years Australia has added 6,000 t of gold to its Economic Demonstrated Resource (EDR, Geoscience Australia, 2012). At the end of 2012, Australia’s EDR of gold was about 9,909 t. This figure suggests that there are enough resources for the next 30 years of mining at the current production rate.

Gold is currently a primary output of about 75 mining and processing operations in Australia; and these mines produce about 250 tonnes of gold a year, almost 10% of world production, and second only to China.

The goal of Gold14@Kalgoorlie is to present the innovative geological practices and technological innovations that are contributing to the continued success of an industry that employs 25,000 personnel across Australia. Neil Phillips sums up “The exploration industry’s aim is discovering better quality gold ounces which are higher grade, easier to extract and better located”.  “Whether such ounces are in new areas (greenfields) or established areas (brownfields) is of secondary importance. Commonly being near to existing infrastructure can be a big advantage.”

The Symposium runs from 8-10 October 2014 and will be accompanied by both pre- and post-conferece field excursions and workshops.

For further information contact Julian Vearncombe in Perth
t: 0437477220


24 CPD HoursAre you registered to attend the symposium?  You can download the extended abstracts volume now to read prior to the symposium sessions.  Your symposium registration information contains the password required to unlock these files for reading.

Low Resolution Copy (ideal for iPads and other tablets)

High Resolution Copy delivered in three parts (Part 1)  (Part 2)  (Part 3)

Thinking of attending?  There’s still time to register.  Click here for details.

The Gold14@Kalgoorlie Organising Committee Thanks the Symposium Sponsors for their Generous Support

Gold14@Kalgoorlie sponsors

AIG Journal Update

Work is progressing well towards the relaunch AIG’s technical publication, AIG Journal, later this year.

About AIG Journal

AIG Journal will provide a vehicle for the rapid publication of both technical and professional geoscientific research, concepts, experience and other information spanning all fields of interest to AIG members.  The journal will be divided into two sections:

  • original papers dealing with any aspect of applied geosciences; and,
  • AIG Notebook: short articles and letters covering the practical application of geoscientific techniques and concepts, and professional issues affecting the geoscience professions with a focus on Australia.

Papers and other contributions will be accepted from both members and non-members of the Institute.  Further information regarding the journal’s editorial policy and submission of papers will be available soon, from the AIG Journal web site.

Being an on-line publication, the Journal will not adhere to a publication schedule.  Papers will be published when they have passed the editorial and review process and been approved for publication by the Journal’s editorial panel.  There are plans to produce a print-form compilation of all papers, letters and other articles published in the Journal on an annual basis.

Meet the Editorial Panel

A four member editorial panel has been assembled to manage the production of the journal.

Tracie Burrows

Tracie Burrows

Tracie has been a member of the AIG since 2001, she is an RPGeo (Mining) and is Geology Manager / Principal Geologist with AMC Consultants Pty Ltd.

Tracie commenced work in the early 1990’s in exploration. By the mid 1990’s she transitioned to mining, working as a mine geologist and specialising in technical computing, which morphed quickly into geological modelling and mineral resource estimation. Tracie has 15 years on site, in base metals, hard rock tin and gold, and has worked from underground mine geologist through to Geology Manager. She has a further eight years in consulting across underground operational reviews, project development, resource estimation and public reporting.

Tracie is an avid reader who will read anything if it stays still long enough. Science fiction and fantasy novels top the list however the odd romance (of the historical time traveling kind) has been seen to be quickly hidden from view. And there is no better place to read than outdoors at ‘Potterage’, her garden, which is dedicated to growing anything with stunning flowers.

Phil Carello

Phil Carello

Phil is geologist with 30 years experience in mineral exploration, mining geology and petroleum exploration.  He has also worked in the financial sector and information technology industry.

Phil’s exploration and mining geology experience spans a range of commodities including nickel, gold, iron ore, copper, and base metals in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, working for junior, mid-tier and major resource industry companies.

Phil graduated from the University of Western Australia and is a member of AIG, GSA, the Financial Services Institute of Australasia, the Australian Drilling Industry Association and AGIA, the Australian Geoscience Information Association.

He currently lives in Brisbane where he works as a self-employed mineral exploration consultant.  Phil brings broad technical and operations experience to his role on AIG’s editorial panel.

Nick Rollings

Nick Rollings

Nick is currently a Senior Fellow/Associate Professor in the School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

He is a geoscientist with over 25 years’ experience in mineral exploration, natural resource management, geospatial information systems, teaching and research.

Nick specialises in the application of GIS, remote sensing and associated geospatial technologies to mineral exploration, natural resource management and cultural data management.

Nick’s experience includes working in private industry, local government, consulting and higher education. In the minerals sector, Nick has worked on exploration for gold, base metals, PGE, high purity quartz, micaceous hematite  and uranium.  This  includes the use of remote sensing and GIS for target generation, lithological mapping, geological data management and 3D interpretation. In the environmental sector, Nick has experience in applying geospatial technologies to forestry, grasslands, soils, water quality, benthic environments, coastal zone, cultural information management, landscape futures, rehabilitation, hazard modelling and site selection. Nick has also written several geospatial software applications and is a Python devotee.  Current interests include:

  • The integration of geoscientific datasets using GIS to model intrusion-related gold deposit prospectivity in far north Queensland, Australia.
  • High Purity Quartz prospecting using Aster in the Mt Surprise area of far north Queensland.
  • Alluvial Gold on Viti Levu, Fiji.
  • Spatially Enabled Community Information Systems in a Remote Aboriginal Community.
  • Spatio-temporal analysis of changes in the track characteristics and impact of South Pacific tropical cyclones over four decades using GIS.


AIG Journal Andrew Waltho 250Andrew Waltho

Andrew is a geologist with more than 30 years experience in exploration and mining geology spanning a range of commodities in both Australia and overseas.  He is currently Chief Geoscientist Energy and Minerals with Rio Tinto Exploration’s Project Generation Group, based in Brisbane, where he leads a small, globally focussed team working on new coal, uranium, unconventional gas, heavy mineral sands, potash, lithium, borate and other industrial mineral opportunities.

Andrew is a Fellow of both AIG and AusIMM, a Registered Professional Geoscientist in Exploration and Mining, a past-President of AIG and a current member of the Institute’s Council, and Chairperson of the Institute’s Publication and Complaints committees.  Andrew is also a Fellow of the Geological Society, and a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME).

His current interests include management of resource and geotechnical risks in exploration and resource evaluation by the incorporation of structural geological observations in geological models of mineral deposits and quantitative analysis of down-hole geophysical logging data.  He is also keenly interested in geoscience education, including continued professional development by professional geoscientists and communication of geoscientific information, principles and ideas.

Expressions of interest to join the journal’s editorial panel from AIG members are welcome.

Watch the AIG web site, AIG News and email newsletters for further updates on progress towards re-establishing AIG Journal this year.