WITS mining students are divided about their employment prospects in a mining sector beset with economic problems.

The mining sector has been plagued by labour unrests, declining commodity prices, high electricity costs and shrinking profits. Mining companies are also cutting jobs in a bid to reduce costs.

The gold price has fallen by about 20% so far this year. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) the mining industry lost over R10-billion in production during the strikes in 2012-2013 financial year.

However, the economic instability in the mining sector has not rattled some Witsies.

“Every company has to go through something, it goes up and down. I’m used to it. The industry is quite big in South Africa; there are a lot of resources out there that have not been explored yet,” said Andy Vuthuza 3rd year geology student.

“The country does need engineers and we will have jobs,” Therance Ralebalala 3rdyear mining engineering.

Chief economist at Efficient Group, Dawie Roodt agrees: “Despite the problems in the mining sector the rest of the country has a huge shortage of skills…The rest of the economy has enough capacity to absorb just about all graduates over time”.

Roodt said that the mining industry would not return to its previous highs as other sectors in the economy have grown bigger than the mining sector.

“Chances are that mining will recover from its current low when we see an acceleration in [the] global economy again. But I am afraid labour issues as well as policy issues will remain a challenge,” Roodt told Wits Vuvuzela.

Mining consultant at Cadiz Corporate Solutions Peter Major said mining is now ‘so risky’ as investment in South Africa and mining companies are “reducing production in order to try and stay profitable”.

Thabang Bhili 2nd year mining engineering said after Lonmin’s Marikana massacre companies are reluctant to offer bursaries and employment.

Bhili also said mining students who are recipients of mining company bursaries are guaranteed jobs after graduation compared to students who personally foot the bill for their studies.

Major said there are always jobs for mining graduates in the country, even though mining companies are not creating jobs due to current economic pressures.

by Emelia Motsai and Ray Mahlaka