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Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure

Overview

This page provides high-level information on the Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure industry which comprises five main industry sectors:

  • Civil Infrastructure.
  • Coal Mining
  • Drilling
  • Extractive Industries (Quarrying)
  • Metalliferous Mining.

Historically, the mining of resources has been important to Australia’s wealth and prosperity, a trend that continues to the present day. Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure combined, makes up a significant part of Australia’s economy, contributing around $248 billion during 2018 and employing over 350,000 people in 2018. The locations of Coal Mining, Drilling and Metalliferous Mining activities are dependent on where deposits of these resources are discovered. Civil Infrastructure and Extractive Industries activity tends to be concentrated around areas of major development and large infrastructure projects.

Nationally recognised training for Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure occupations is delivered under the RII – Resources and Infrastructure Industry Training Package.

For more information and data specific to Civil Infrastructure, Coal Mining, Drilling, Extractive Industries, and Metalliferous Mining please visit the respective pages. For information and data on training qualifications that apply to multiple sectors within the Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure industry please visit the Resources and Infrastructure Cross Sector page.

Industry cluster snapshot

Employment and training snapshot

Employment levels in the Mining, and Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction industry sectors rose in the period between 2007 and 2014 reflecting labour demand created by the resources boom. Employment levels have since declined overall from their peaks for the Mining nfd, Non-Metallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying, Oil and Gas Extraction, and Coal Mining industry sectors. Employment levels for Metal Ore Mining and Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction have risen significantly between 2015 and 2021, and the employment level for Exploration and Other Mining Support Services has increased from 47,100 to 67,300 between 2020 and 2021. Employment levels are projected to decrease by 2025 in all sectors except for Coal Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction which show slight increases.

There were approximately 66,890 program enrolments in the Resources and Infrastructure Industry Training Package during 2020, and 9,310 completions. Both program enrolments and completions have declined overall between 2016 and 2020. The proportion of subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program has declined steadily from just over 57% in 2016 to nearly 40% in 2020.

There are a high proportion of common skills shared between the different sectors in the Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure industry. For example, Drilling is a multidisciplinary sector and shares many core skills with the other sectors within the industry. The Coal Mining, Extractive Industries, and Metalliferous Mining sectors also share sets of common skills.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights on skills needs

The Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast identifies three key drivers that will influence the future skills required by the Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure industry workforce.

  • A steady economic environment: Global demand for resources continues, and there are high levels of State and Federal investment in large civil infrastructure projects, particularly in road and rail with the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 showing there was $130 billion of transport infrastructure projects under construction in 2018.
  • Changing technology: As the uptake of automation, digital technologies and prefabrication increase, advanced digital and cognitive skills are becoming more valuable and enabling the ability to adjust to new ways of working in the sector.
  • Safety and risk management: Heightened focus on safety and environmental threats is demanding increased awareness of and responsibility for business risks. Nano-diesel particulate matter (nDPM) control, fatigue management and the increasing importance of a social licence to operate are redefining how and which kinds of businesses firms operate.

In the Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast, stakeholders suggest that due to the sector's sensitivity to economic cycles it can be difficult for employers to attract and retain skilled workers in downturn periods. The Rebuilding Australia: A Plan for a Civil Infrastructure Led Recovery report commissioned by the Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) finds the high cyclicality of infrastructure rollouts often presents an unsustainable workload for contractors, with shortages of skills in upturns and loss of skills from the industry in downturns. Forecasts for civil work, exemplified by the coming wave in transport-related investment, indicate that the boom and bust cycles of the pipeline have persisted and will likely continue over the medium run. The report also states national civil construction work done in the 2020 financial year was valued at around $65bn.

The CCF National Skills Survey of industry members identified a wide spread of occupations they find it difficult to recruit for, with more than 30 occupations nominated by survey participants. Plant and machinery operators, supervisors, engineers and project managers were the most frequent responses from respondents. The Skills Priority List shows occupations with an estimated strong future demand related to civil engineering and mining include: surveyor, civil engineer, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, mining engineer, civil engineering technician, earthmoving plant operator, backhoe operator, bulldozer operator, excavator operator, grader operator, and loader operator. There are also a number of cross-sectoral occupations from electrotechnology and construction. The CCF survey also finds an ageing workforce, a shortage of locally trained workers, and a lack of appropriate training were challenges cited as impacting on civil infrastructure firms’ recruitment activities in the future.

Australia’s National Resources Workforce Strategy states that the demand for new and emerging skills is on the rise, driven by the incorporation of new technologies in resource project lifecycles and in the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector, and by emerging sectors like critical minerals and hydrogen. The integration of technology was projected to increase new jobs by 80,000 across the METS sector by 2030 before COVID-19 and increase the sector’s economic impact by approximately $52 billion. Demand is increasing within existing resources sector occupations for additional skills including creativity, change management, data analysis, digital literacy, design thinking, stakeholder analysis, active listening and learning, and strategic planning. The Australian Resources and Energy Group is undertaking regular forecasting studies to map the expected growth in the workforce, and where shortages may emerge. Examples of how technology is augmenting and shaping future roles in Advantage Australia include shotfirers using drones and drivers operating automated vehicles. The report states employees such as mine designers, drone pilots, drivers and equipment operators do overlapping work, and hybrid roles will continue to emerge requiring skills from multiple fields, such as data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence. Analysis conducted on behalf of the Minerals Council of Australia by Deloitte Access Economics finds the mining and METS sector directly supported 483,499 full time equivalent jobs in Australia in 2019-20.

The Advantage Australia report states more than 1,000 apprenticeships will be created in partnership with the Australian Government through the Mining Skills Organisation Pilot, and around 5,000 new positions over the next few years when combined with other incentives, mostly in regional Australia. Australia’s National Resources Workforce Strategy finds approximately half of the resources workforce are based in rural and regional areas. Resource development can support regional communities through procurement from local businesses, supply chains and investments in local infrastructure. Three examples of government initiatives to increase opportunities for people in regional areas included in the strategy are:

  • The Future of Work Partnership. The program is a partnership with BHP that over the next five years will provide training for up to 1,000 people through short courses or participating in workplace integrated learning through an Advanced Apprenticeship.
  • The Barkly Regional Deal between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and the Barkly Regional Council includes the development of a Regional Workforce Plan to identify and align training and employment opportunities and maximise local and Indigenous employment.
  • The development of five new strategic basin plans, starting with the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory, and the Galilee and North Bowen basin in central Queensland, which will consider how to maximise the benefits to local communities through employment, procurement and increased economic activity in the regions.

The report also highlights industry and government efforts to increase gender balance, and career and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The resources sector is a strong employer of Indigenous Australians, comprising 3.7% of the current workforce. This is above the national average of 1.7%, with the Indigenous population making up roughly 3% of Australia’s population.

The survey of mining executives examined by KPMG in the Australian Mining Risk Forecast lists community relations and social licence to operate in second position this year, increasing from sixth position in the previous year. Mine 2021 states environment, social and governance (ESG) represents one of the mining industry’s most significant opportunities for long-term value creation, building trust and sustainable growth, with the top three reasons being increased shareholder value, product and operations differentiation, and improved access to capital. Examples provided include the Port of Newcastle accessing a sustainability-linked loan, which delivers a reduced borrowing rate if the port fulfils its environmental and social commitments, and the Alcoa and Rio Tinto joint venture producing low-carbon aluminium using a process that generates oxygen, replacing direct greenhouse gas emissions from traditional smelting which attracts a premium that has increased from US$10-$15 to US$59 this year due to increased consumer demand.

COVID-19 impact

Civil Infrastructure

The Rebuilding Australia: A Plan for a Civil Infrastructure Led Recovery report states it is critical to maintain infrastructure investment in the long term to service the needs of the broader community as well as businesses which drive employment and economic growth. While population growth has slowed due to the impact of COVID-19, it is expected to return post-pandemic and changed behaviours due to the health crisis may see stronger population growth in regional Australia, as opposed to capital cities which will have implications for the distribution of infrastructure investment.

Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan extensively examines the changed usage of infrastructure assets due to the pandemic and provides reforms and policy recommendations to support national recovery. The role of civil infrastructure in supporting the Australian economy is also highlighted in the IBISWorld COVID-19 Economic Assessment report. Under the heavy and civil engineering section of the report, it is stated the Federal Government and the Master Builders Association of the ACT have identified infrastructure construction as an industry that can be ramped up to help create jobs.

An earlier report by Infrastructure Australia, Infrastructure beyond COVID-19: A national study on the impacts of the pandemic on Australia highlights infrastructure investments announced by the Australian government to support recovery which included:

  • Additional investment of $14b towards accelerated projects over the next four years including transport infrastructure of $1.5b for shovel ready projects and $500m for Targeted Road Safety Works, announced by the Australian Government in June 2020.
  • $3.5b additional investment in NBN Co. to increase the availability of higher speeds. NBN Co announced it would bring forward a total of $4.5 billion of new network investment, with $2 billion to be directed towards better connecting regional Australia, complementing the $83 million in the Regional Connectivity Program for telecommunications infrastructure grants provided by the Australian Government.
  • Energy investment including the gas fired recovery announced by the Government in September 2020, and support for emerging technologies. The September announcement also included work with state governments through a program worth up to $250 million to accelerate three critical projects – the Marinus Link, Project Energy Connect and VNI West interconnectors. These projects are amongst those explored in detail in the 2020 Integrated System Plan for the National Electricity Market.

At the state level, the Rebuilding Australia: A Plan for a Civil Infrastructure Led Recovery report includes:

  • New South Wales – the commencement of several multi-billion dollar urban transport projects including Metro West, Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link, the M6 Stage 1, parts of Inland Rail, and Snowy Hydro 2.0.
  • Victoria – Melbourne Metro, the North East Link and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.
  • Queensland –Cross River Rail and Inland Rail projects.
  • Western Australia – Metronet and numerous road projects. The report notes that with mining activity also increasing in Western Australia and restrictions on the interstate movement of people there may be challenges in securing skills from competing regions and sectors.
  • South Australia – continuing works along the North-South Corridor and several electricity projects.

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 has also been introduced 2 September in the Parliament of Australia that will allow the Star of the South project, planned for off the coast of Victoria, to progress.

The Rebuilding Australia: A Plan for a Civil Infrastructure Led Recovery report suggests that while governments continue to advocate for quick stimulus, it often takes time for stimulus plans to translate into construction activity, and that recent activity has been driven by existing projects. Pre-existing engineering construction projects have progressed steadily as privately and publicly funded activity has mainly been able to continue through the pandemic, due to a lack of movement restrictions targeted towards construction workers. However, roads engineering construction has been affected by social distancing guidelines and lockdowns. The Australian Constructors Association has collated a range of information and resources to support their members through the 2021 outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria, including permitted local government areas, vaccination status, health measures, permit requirements, and proportions of allowable workforce.

Mining Industry

Mining operations have continued during the COVID-19 outbreak. At the federal and state resources ministers meeting on Tuesday 24 March 2020, the ministers discussed the need for a coordinated national approach to managing the impacts of COVID-19 in the resources sector, and agreed that the sector is essential in maintaining a strong Australian economy. Mining was deemed an essential service allowing the industry to continue operations.

Australia’s National Resources Workforce Strategy states that while COVID-19 has impacted many sectors, the resources sector has shown resilience and relatively strong growth, which is predicted to continue. The survey of mining executives examined by KPMG in the Australian Mining Risk Forecast lists commodity price risks in first position this year, and global pandemic and global trade war as equal third position. IBISWorld’s COVID-19 Economic Assessment supplies a brief economic analysis for each mining industry subsector which includes:

  • Coal – the analysis reports the COVID-19 outbreak significantly affected the Coal Mining industry subsector. The majority of Australian coal is exported and slowing industrial activity, trade restrictions and lower market prices prompting reduced production have resulted in a sharp fall in revenue. However it is expected the global demand for coal will increase by 4.5% in 2021, driven predominantly by rising coal fired generation in Asia.
  • Extractive – oil and gas extraction has also been strongly affected due to the slowdown in economic activity as exports account for over 80% of revenue in a typical year. OPEC's oil production fell to its lowest level in June 2020 since May 1991 during the Gulf War, and the price for liquid natural gas fell to record lows in 2020 before increases in demand due to colder than usual conditions in China, Japan and South Korea. While it is expected global demand will increase, global outbreaks of the Delta variant of COVID-19 have caused uncertainty about economic recovery.
  • Metalliferous – demand for copper, mineral sands and nickel weakened due to subdued economic activity and disruptions of supply chains for manufacturing activity during the pandemic. However, flooding in China in July 2021 is expected to increase demand for copper as infrastructure is rebuilt. Disruptions to copper mining activity in Peru and Chile, and to iron ore mining in Brazil, may be to the advantage of Australian mining operations. While new vehicle sales fell in 2020, rebounding demand may see prices for aluminium increase by 25%. Precious metals producers have benefited from growing investor demand for safe-haven assets.
  • Non-metals and quarrying – the export of some commodities, such as lithium, faced disruptions due to the closure or reduced output of factories across the globe. However, lithium prices have since grown strongly and are anticipated to significantly benefit the industry. The Gravel and Sand Quarrying industry primarily has a domestic focus and is therefore less affected by international trade conditions. However, a slowdown in domestic construction activity, particularly in the residential sector, is anticipated to affect demand for some subdivision operators. The subsector may receive some benefit from government stimulus spending on infrastructure and incentives such as Homebuilder.
  • Exploration – major price fluctuations have discouraged exploration activity by oil and gas mining companies in 2020, but strong iron ore and gold prices supported expenditure on mineral exploration over 2020-21, with expenditure on mineral exploration surpassing pre-pandemic levels in the December 2020 quarter and continuing to rise in the March 2021 quarter. The Mining Support Services industry is expected to return to growth in 2021-22, as capital expenditure on mining increases.

The Western Australian Mineral and Petroleum Industry Activity Review 2020 reports the COVID-19 pandemic impacted employment through limits on the total number of workers on site at any one time, and changes to fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) shift schedules due to State-based restrictions and social distancing measures. The Offshore Oil and Gas Safety Review: Policy Framework states the pandemic has emphasised the importance of managing physical and mental health impacts FIFO workers in the offshore industry and the need for proactive mental health strategies in place to ensure workers’ overall wellbeing, particularly as their research has found FIFO workers experience higher levels of poor wellbeing than workers in general. Australia’s National Resources Workforce Strategy reports the pandemic has changed the way FIFO is used, with border closures leading to policies and incentives that encourage FIFO workers to relocate.

Mine 2021 states COVID-19 has compelled mining companies to speed up their modernisation programs, including digitisation and automation, to protect workers through technologies that reduced the number of people onsite. The report cites as an example the recent announcement by BHP of a US$800m program to add 500 autonomous trucks in iron ore and coal mines in Australia. The report also highlights that employee retention may become an issue due to working under COVID-normal conditions placing additional burdens on employees, particularly as the pandemic has shifted people’s priorities and spending time with family and loved ones has taken on new significance.

Advantage Australia states mines expanded local programs to help keep vulnerable people safe, and support community food security, housing and social services in remote areas through working with governments to provide essential health and education services, utilities such as gas and water, as well as first responder emergency services. Australian mining COVID-19 protocols were used in Canada, Mexico, Peru and Argentina, allowing governments to get the industry running again to support their economies.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure IRC’s

 

Relevant research

2020 Integrated System Plan for the National Electricity Market – Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan – Infrastructure Australia

Advantage Australia – Minerals Council of Australia

Australia’s National Resources Workforce Strategy – Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Australian Mining Risk Forecast 2021/2022 – KPMG

COVID-19 Economic Assessment – IBISWorld

COVID-19 Information and Resources – Australian Constructors Association

Economic Contribution of the Mining and METS Sector: Australian Estimates - Deloitte Access Economics

Gas-fired Recovery (media release) - Prime Minister, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia

Infrastructure beyond COVID-19: A National Study on the Impacts of the Pandemic on Australia – Infrastructure Australia

Infrastructure Investment response to COVID-19 – Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Initial build complete, NBN Co announces next phase of network investment to meet future demand – NBN Co

Mine 2021 – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

Mineral and petroleum industry activity review 2020 - Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

National Resources Ministers - Meeting Communique (Tuesday, 24th March 2020) - Australian Government

National Skills Survey – Civil Contractors Federation

NBN Co to invest $2 billion in regional Australia – Australian Government

Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 – Parliament of Australia

Offshore Oil and Gas Safety Review: Policy Framework – Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Rebuilding Australia: A Plan for a Civil Infrastructure Led Recovery – Civil Contractors Federation

Skills Priority List: June 2021 - National Skills Commission

 

Regulatory bodies

Australasian Explosives Industry and Safety Group (AEISG)

NSW Government Resources Regulator

NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Water

Northern Territory Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security

Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade – Mining and Energy

Queensland Department of Resources

South Australian Department for Environment and Water

South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA)

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment

Tasmanian Department of State Growth

Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

Water NSW

Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation

 

Safety regulators

Access Canberra

NT WorkSafe

Safe Work Australia

SafeWork SA

SafeWork NSW

WorkSafe Queensland

WorkSafe Tasmania

WorkSafe Victoria

WorkSafe Western Australia

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Civil Infrastructure

Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT)

Australian Flexible Pavement Association (AFPA)

Australian Constructors Association (ACA)

Austroads

AustStab

Civil Contractors Federation (CCF)

Construction & Mining Equipment Industry Group (CMEIG)

Construction Skills QLD

Dial Before You Dig

Engineers Australia

Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA)

Roads Australia

Traffic Management Association of Australia (TMAA)

 

Coal Mining

Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA)

Australian Mining Association (AMA)

Coal Services

Mine Managers Association of Australia (MMAA)

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA)

Mines Rescue

NSW Mining and Petroleum Competence Board

Queensland Coal Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee (CMSHAC)

 

Drilling

Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT)

Australian Drilling Industry Association (ADIA)

International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC)

National Uniform Drillers Licensing Committee (NUDLC)

NSW Mining and Petroleum Competence Board

Piling and Foundation Specialists Federation (PFSF)

 

Extractive Industries (Quarrying)

Australian Flexible Pavement Association (AFPA)

Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA)

Construction Material Processors Association (CMPA)

Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA)

NSW Mining and Petroleum Competence Board

Victorian Limestone Producers Association (VLPA)

 

Metalliferous Mining

Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA)

Mine Managers Association of Australia (MMAA)

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA)

NSW Mining and Petroleum Competence Board

 

State Training Advisory Bodies

Building, Construction, Resources and Infrastructure Training Advisory Body (BCRITAB) (NSW)

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) (SA)

Energy Skills Queensland (ESQ)

Industry Skills Advisory Council Northern Territory (ISAC NT)

Resources Industry Training Council (RITCWA) (WA)

 

Employee Associations

Australian Workers' Union (AWU)

Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU)

 

Industry Growth Centres

Mining, Equipment, Technology and Services Growth Centre (METS Ignited)

National Energy Resources Australia (NERA)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 2 digit industries employment projections to May 2025
    • 06 Coal Mining
    • 07 Oil and Gas Extraction
    • 08 Metal Ore Mining
    • 09 Non-Metallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying
    • 10 Exploration and Other Mining Support Services
    • B0 Mining nfd
    • 31 Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 digit '06 Coal Mining', '07 Oil and Gas Extraction', '08 Metal Ore Mining', '09 Non-Metallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying', '10 Exploration and Other Mining Support Services', 'B0 Mining nfd', and '31 Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction', 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package:

  • RII Resources and Infrastructure Industry Training Package.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Updated: 10 Mar 2022
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