Thursday, April 26, 2012

Need a mining job? Head to Ecuador

Ecuador needs at least 300 mining engineers and geologists in the near future to be able to deliver on its recent mining contracts, but only about 40 such professionals graduate annually from six universities that offer those programs, according to the agency that regulates Ecuador’s mining industry.

The Agencia de Regulación y Control Minero (ARCOM) says some of the reasons for the shortage of mining graduates include the limited number of academic programs offered in this area, the high cost to universities which offer them, and an overall lack of student interest in these professions.

Jaime Jarrin, ARCOR’s executive director, added yet another reason for the shortage is that mining engineers and geologists are also needed by Ecuador’s highway construction, petroleum extraction and hydroelectricity industries. Additionally, the country lacks other professionals with knowledge of the mining industry, such as economists and lawyers.

However, because of the mining sector’s increasing demand for skilled labour, and since the employment rate is high, these programs are becoming more popular with students.

“All of our graduates have jobs,” Carlos Ortiz, director of the Engineering Mining School at the Universidad Central en Quito, was quoted as telling BBC News earlier this month. “There isn’t a single one that is unemployed due to a lack of options in mining.”

Last month, Ecuador signed a contract with the Chinese company Ecuacorriente to develop the country’s fist copper mining megaproject. In addition, four more contracts are in the pipeline to be signed this year: Kinross Gold Corp’s Fruta del Norte gold mine; International Minerals’ gold and silver property, Rio Blanco; IAMGOLD’s Quimsacocha gold mine; and a second deal with Ecuacorriente around the major copper project Panantza-San Carlos.

In this context, Ecuador may have to import skilled mining labour to meet its mining obligations. According to Ecuadorian law, 80% of mining workers must be nationals, leaving 20 per of the jobs to be filled by foreigners.

“Our country is experiencing a new era in mining,” noted ARCOR’s Jarrin. “It is a reality that we need mining experts and our deficit in this area is one we must solve with the help of government, our universities and the private sector.”