12th September 2017
There is cautious economic optimism about green shoots in the resources sector and sections of the jobs market as well as promising signs real estate has bottomed out.
A surge in mineral exploration has put about half a dozen jobs on the verge of a skills shortage, according to Hays recruitment. The number of mineral exploration licence applications — known as the canary in the coal mine because the number indicates the amount of work in the pipeline — was up 45 per cent in the June quarter, at 669, compared with 460 in the June quarter the year previously.
The annual figure was up 29 per cent in the last financial year compared with 2015-16. Mining tenure applications — usually the first step in setting up a mine project — rose 14 per cent from 3685 in 2015-16 to 4197 in 2016-17. Strike Drilling managing director Richard Bennett said business had never been busier.
Mr Bennett had this year scaled up his operation with three new drill rigs to handle the growing demand, taking him to a nine-rig company. He said there was ample exploration work for gold and lithium and steady work in iron ore, nickel and copper. There was also healthy exploration for zinc and cobalt, enjoying their highest prices in about a decade.
Mr Kent said many workers had left WA in recent years and there was a dearth of some types of trainees, particularly in exploration geology. He said competition had led to employers poaching workers from their competitors with higher pay, which could be a sign that wages growth was heading back to parts of the sector. “I would go as far as to say we are past green shoots — it’s actually pretty buoyant,” Mr Kent said.