Stats SA show that there has been a -4 000 annual change in the number of employees in mining and quarrying industry.

WITS mining engineering students have raised concerns about the alarming rate of decreasing employment within the mining sector.

Stats SA released their quarterly employment statistics this month which show that employment in mining and quarrying has decreased by 0,7%. These statistics also show that there has been a -4 000 annual change in the number of employees in mining and quarrying.

Mining engineering lecturer Sihe Nhleko believes these figures will affect mining engineering graduates.

“In my time we were about 50 in class but now we are talking about close to 100. So the number of graduates per year, in mining at Wits, has doubled. But the mines have actually shrunk. So the pool of graduates has increased but the pool to which it will be absorbed has [shrunk] so that again will affect the absorption rate,” he said.

Fourth year mining engineering student, Nompumelelo Mtetwa, said she is terribly concerned by the decrease in employment in the mining sector especially for her as a woman. “The decrease of employment in the mining industry is very alarming. I’ve done my internship in two mines and I haven’t met a single woman who said that ‘I am a section manager’ for example,” she said.

One mining engineering student who graduated this year said he has been directly affected by the low employment rates. “The increased influx of mining graduates has tightened the competition for placement amongst various mining operations,” said Wits graduate Andani Msanda Mphaphuli. However, he said he felt lucky to have been employed by Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine, a mining company in Rustenburg, after he managed to work on a group project for them during his studies.

Some individuals with mining engineering degrees have found themselves working in banks and financial institutions.

One Wits mining engineering alumnus, who declined to be named, graduated and waited three months before being employed and now works as a trainee business developer.

“I think new graduates in mining should look at new ways of working in the industry. I am always in meetings and present for mining companies and I ended up in the business sector because I wanted to know more about business,” he said.

Nhleko, who had worked in the industry for over three years, said there are other career options that mining engineering students can opt for, including the banking sector, mining supply and services and entrepreneurship.