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Canada is facing a labour paradox, the head of the mining industry's human resources council says. While a number of once booming manufacturing centres across Canada suffer from high unemployment, mining companies are struggling to address a labour shortage that could hamper their ability to move ahead on planned projects.
"It's moved from an issue that's been dealt with in HR departments into a business risk and threatening the mining industry," Ryan Montpellier, executive director at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), tells BNN.
Montpellier says the industry is facing a perfect storm of an aging workforce and a booming mining sector.
"About 40 percent of the current mining industry workforce is 50 years or older and as these people prepare for retirement -- we're estimating that about a third of the industry will be eligible to retire by 2016 -- it creates a massive exodus of people with a high degree of knowledge, skill and experience that will be leaving the sector," he says.
"Coupled with the aging workforce you're seeing a significant and substantive growth in employment in the industry… no other sector in Canada has added more jobs than the mining industry has in the last 12 months -- growing at almost 8 percent."
MiHR estimates that the mining sector will need about 100,000 new workers by 2020, with more than 60,000 already working in the industry expected to retire during that period.
"The industry has a lot of work to do to attract the non-traditional sources of labour, such as women, aboriginal people and immigrants," Montpellier says
MiHR says women currently make up 14.4 percent of the industry's work force -- a 40-percent increase over the last five years. Aboriginal workers currently makeup 6.75 percent of industry's workforce.