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Millennials and the mining industry, the impending scarcity of battery metals and the impending scarcity of battery metals – Mining Indaba 2020.

In its 2019 trend report, Deloitte’s Tracking the trends 2019, the top 10 issues transforming the future of mining highlighted an issue that many in mining will already be familiar with – the industry is struggling with a perception problem among younger people looking to choose a career path.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 12, 2019

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“Right now,” says Deloitte, the mining industry is not attracting enough numbers of diverse candidates to truly move the dial on its diversity and inclusion strategies. To shift this balance, companies will need to change their talent attraction and retention policies.

Out of Deloitte’s 2019 Millennial Survey, results from the South African cohort reflected the desire millennials must work in fields that create social impact and positive change.

“As miners grapple with the challenge of rebuilding their skill base and developing a workforce capable of bringing the industry along the technology pathway it needs to remain competitive, they must find new ways to motivate their workforce,” says Deloitte.

Read more: mining in southern Africa

As we enter 2020, the African mining industry – as well as the industry at a global scale – will continue to grapple with the generational shift of the workforce and understanding how to attract and retain millennial workers.

Tackling youth unemployment in South Africa

We are very much alive to the fact that youth unemployment is indeed a national crisis said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on National Youth Day.

Read: Minerals Council responds to challenges from President – Part 1

With unemployment rates inching up to 27.6% in the first quarter of 2019, the year ahead will be an interesting time to see how President Ramaphosa’s government can use the mining industry to help ease the severe unemployment rates for South Africa’s youth population.

Read: Minerals Council responds to challenges from President – Part 2

According to Stats SA, almost two-thirds of those who are jobless in South Africa are in the 15-34 age group; around four out of 10 young people do not have a job.

Read: Minerals Council responds to challenges from President – Part 3

Launched in 2018, the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative is continuing its efforts to create job opportunities for young people and could see the mining industry become an integral part.

Read: Minerals Council responds to challenges from President – Part 4

President Ramaphosa’s YES initiative aims to give businesses an incentive to employ younger people through tax breaks and improved black economic empowerment ratings.

The impending scarcity of battery metals

As the demand for electric vehicles (EV) grows and their rate of manufacturing increases, companies including Tesla say we are likely to face a shortage of the key metals required for EVs and struggle to keep up with this mounting demand.

From the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) cobalt supplies to the copper reserves they and Zambia have on offer, it’s no wonder they are being tapped for their battery metals.

As well as cobalt and copper, key elements in making the rechargeable batteries for everything from Teslas to energy storage and iPhones include lithium, nickel, graphite, manganese and rare earths.

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Despite the demand for EVs, investment in the companies carrying out the mining of these battery metals is lagging, with a burgeoning risk of a global shortage in the minerals growing more likely.

Tesla’s global supply manager for battery metals, Sarah Maryssael, as well as carmakers including Ford Motor, Toyota and BMW have said that the auto industry needs to start investing directly in battery metal mines to make sure supplies are secure for the coming three to five years.

To combat the potential scarcity, companies like Ford – which is looking to launch EVs in the coming year – and Samsung and looking at ways to reduce the amount of cobalt used in their rechargeable batteries and make EVs that are more affordable and less at risk of the battery metal shortage.

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