Canadian mining companies join global war for talent

Doubled His Salary

“That ranges from signing-on bonuses, which were unheard of 10 years ago, to all types of other bonuses, incentives and stock options,” Stafford said. Skilled mining professionals are being offered sign-on bonuses of as much as 20% of salaries, he said.

Geologist Marc-Andre Brulotte left a position at a consulting company in Montreal in December for a job in Queensland, Australia. He almost doubled his salary.

“It’s a really good time to be a qualified professional, there are lots of good opportunities for us,” Brulotte said.

“It’s another story for the fresh out of school geologists or engineers, they will get a job for sure,” Brulotte said. “But chances are they will not get well trained, simply because there won’t be any experienced staff to teach them how to work.”

Projects in the industry will take longer to complete and costs will be higher because inexperienced workers are less productive and need to be supervised, Barrick’s Regent said.

Supply-Chain Guy

“It’s not just wage inflation, but turnover and productivity: they all have a knock-on effect in terms of what your overall labor cost profile looks like,” he said in a Feb. 16 interview.

Barrick has a 25% turnover rate at its Australian operations, Regent said.

“We had a supply-chain guy, a young guy, who was making $100,000 a year and he just got bid away for $150,000,” he said. “Labor is a big issue.”

Barrick said in July the price estimate for its Pascua-Lama project, which straddles the Chile-Argentina border, had jumped to as much as $5 billion from an earlier forecast of $3.6 billion due to higher labor, equipment and materials expenses.

Gold futures for June delivery slid less than 0.1% to $1,643.20 on the Comex in New York today. The metal has climbed 4.7% this year.

Poaching Mentality

Copper Fox Metals Inc., studying a copper and gold mine in northwest British Columbia, said March 19 it would miss a month- end target for a feasibility study on its Schaft Creek project because of “manpower shortages” at the contractor it hired.

“I would say that it’s completely universal from company to company, whether it be a junior or an intermediate or a major, I think there’s a general delay in terms of shortages,” said Shane Uren, the Vancouver-based company’s vice-president of environment and permitting.

For its part, North American Palladium Ltd., a precious- metals company with operations in Quebec and Ontario, has bought advertising in the regional airport in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which serves several fly-in, fly-out operations in the region.

“There is clearly a bit of a poaching mentality in the sector,” Trent Mell, corporate development and human resources vice-president, said in an interview. “We’re really fighting a global war.”

New Rules

Canada will introduce new rules to make it easier for skilled tradesmen to enter the country, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said April 10. The changes will help address growing labor shortages in the natural resources and construction sectors, he said.

Rizzuto, the recruiter, said his proposal to bring a group of miners from South America is more likely to succeed if friends and family move together, he said.

“What the Canadians are selling is the prospect of Canadian citizenship, education for their kids, social benefits, health care,” he said.

Still, the struggle for workers is ongoing, he said. Mining still isn’t seen as a “glamorous” profession.

“You can make good money, six-figures money, but how many kids are coming out of school today saying ‘Hey, I want to be a miner’?” he said. “I’m proof of that. My father, the last thing he wanted me to be was a miner.”

Bloomberg News

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