Dec '10/Jan '11

HR Outlook

Stakeholder consultations define HR priorities for 2011

By Ryan Montpellier

Saskatchewan mine site Working together: Two employees discuss plan details at a plant located on a mine site in Saskatchewan | Photo courtesy of MiHR

Nearing the end of 2009, economic indicators began to point towards recovery in the mining sector. While companies were focused on managing through the recession, planning for the next decade was not an immediate priority. Yet the demographic pressures of our industry have not changed — even in our most pessimistic forecast, the industry will need 60,000 workers to replace retirees and ongoing departures. If we consider a period of relative stability in the sector, the number of recruits needed balloons to 100,000 by 2020. In addition, if we continue to be governed exclusively by fluctuations in commodity prices, we will never get off the cyclical rollercoaster.

Central to achieving an effective workforce is industry collaboration. MiHR has mobilized industry to work more collaboratively than in the past on issues that apply to everyone: diversity, mobility, standardization and certification. Mining companies are now further ahead, willing to open up their HR departments and adopt new methods to grow the overall workforce — and to compete as employers of choice.

As one facet of MiHR’s continued commitment to industry collaboration, it holds annual forums to bring together senior industry stakeholders to learn about the Council’s products and resources. Through facilitated sessions, participants will learn how to implement these products and resources, and to identify and discuss future needs and opportunities for supporting the mining industry’s HR challenges.

Towards the end of 2009 and throughout 2010, consultations were held in western, central and eastern Canada. From these consultations, industry stakeholders identified the following HR issues as priorities: the need to facilitate worker mobility and skills standardization; developing a counter-cyclical strategy to ensure industry is positioned to address future labour shortages, despite the economic cycle it is in; and, finally, managing the aging workforce.

MiHR uses these collaborative sessions to develop programs, tools and resources that provide industry with practical and effective solutions to address the HR issues identified as priorities. Since the time of these consultations, key programs have been implemented.

The Canadian Mining Credentials Program (CMCP), developed to increase recognition of skills and competencies, support worker mobility and create consistent, quality training for the mining and minerals exploration industry in Canada, has three components: National Occupational Standards, certification and accreditation of training. The strategy for the program is to build the systems for certification and training accreditation based on industry-defined standards. To date, under the guidance of industry development committees, MiHR has developed four National Occupational Standards: Underground Hard Rock Miner, Surface Miner, Minerals Processing Operator and Diamond Driller.

The certification program is being piloted this year. MiHR is currently identifying and training workplace assessors, creating the assessment tools and testing and evaluating the program. Seven mine sites across Canada are participating in the Certification Pilot program, including:

  • Xstrata Zinc’s Brunswick Mine in Bathurst, New Brunswick
  • Cementation at Totten Mine in Sudbury, Ontario, and at Trout Lake Mine in Manitoba
  • Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories
  • Teck Coal’s Greenhills Operation in British Columbia
  • Northgate Minerals Corp. at the Kemess South Mine, British Columbia
  • Teck Resources–Highland Valley Copper in British Columbia

It is anticipated that this group, composed of 60 to 100 miners, will become the first nationally certified underground miners, surface miners and minerals processing operators. A national rollout will begin in mid-2011.

To help industry manage the aging workforce and develop a long-term workforce planning strategy, MiHR has released the “Canadian Mining Industry Employment and Hiring Forecasts 2010” report and HR Forecasts (, a national online tool that will allow users to create custom employment forecasts and feed them into their strategic plans and scenario models. Developed under MiHR’s Mining Workforce Information Network (MIWIN), these two new resources provide the most extensive research and analysis on Canada’s mining labour market and workforce planning to date.

These resources will also better align industry’s needs with education, bolstered by the career awareness from our ongoing attraction program, “Explore for More.” Good labour market information means we can stop asking: “How long will the upturn last?” relying instead on counter-cyclical strategies that mitigate the effects of the sector’s volatility.

By working together, we have accomplished a great deal over the past year and it is critical that we maintain this momentum because there is more work to do. With 2011 upon us, MiHR will be further engaging industry stakeholders through its Innovative HR Practice Recognition Program. This online compendium will recognize, reward and showcase innovative mining HR practices, change perceptions and position mining as an excellent industry to work in. Employers contributing to the website will benefit from an enhanced profile and industry status, as well as valuable insight into the industry’s most innovative HR practices in areas such as diversity and inclusion, skills, training and employee development, compensation and wellness and social responsibility.

Through the exchange of knowledge and best practices, we can, collectively, implement the strategies needed to ensure an appropriately skilled workforce is in place for 2011 and the years to follow.

Applications are now open for MiHR’s Innovative HR Practice Recognition Program. To apply, go to and share your company’s HR success stories.

Ryan Montpellier
Ryan Montpellier is the executive director of MiHR. Currently, he sits on a number of boards and provincial committees dealing with labour shortages in the mining sector.

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