BHP Warns Skilled Labor Shortfall Threatening Green Metals Boom

(Bloomberg) — BHP Group Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, is warning a shortage of skilled workers from mining engineers to mathematicians will hamper efforts to meet soaring demand for metals crucial to the energy transition.

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Increasingly advanced technological expertise is needed to discover and access new deposits of “difficult to find” key metals such as copper and nickel, Laura Tyler, BHP’s chief technical officer, said in a speech in Melbourne on Thursday.

“They are becoming deeper, harder to access, in more challenging regions,” Tyler said. “As we automate and electrify our operations, move work to remote operating centers, change the very equipment our maintainers look after, we have to train for new skills.”

Demand for copper — a core metal in almost every electrical technology from power grids to electric vehicles — is expected to double over the next 30 years, while the need for nickel, a key component in lithium-ion batteries, will quadruple, Tyler said. Both “future facing” metals are key to BHP’s growth plans, along with fertilizer ingredient potash, as consumption of its main commodity iron ore plateaus and it winds back its exposure to coal.

Read more: BHP Says China Growth Will Help Offset Wider Global Slowdown

To meet demand for the so-called “green metals,” by 2040 the world will need 21% more mining and geotech engineers and 29% more metallurgists, Tyler said, citing PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP research. “We need to train them now,” she added.

“Even as we retrain our people to meet the challenges of the new way of operating, we know this will not be enough,” she said. “We need more technologists. More data scientists. And more mathematicians.”

Demand for less skilled forms of labor in the sector, however, will drop thanks to automation of vehicles and equipment, she said.

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©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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