Mining is suffering from a perception problem that’s preventing the industry attracting the passionate young talent it needs to flourish in the future.
Fortunately, there are young people like Enrik Mundt who are changing these perceptions for the better. Enrik is something of a poster boy for the future of mining, and we had the pleasure of speaking with him on a recent episode of the Full Production podcast. Brought out to Perth from Germany by his parents, he was inspired by the possibilities of mining and went on to study at the Western Australian School of Mining in Kalgoorlie. Now, as a graduate metallurgical engineer with Northern Star Resources, he’s inspiring other young folks and building stronger networks among his peers.
The Mining Perception Problem
There is a perception that persists that mining is an antiquated industry that’s very much money focused and at odds with current thinking on things such as environmental issues. This has been borne out in Enrik’s experience talking to younger people. “There’s a really negative perception about the impact on the environment,” Enrik notes. “Whereas the mining industry is actually doing a lot to rehabilitate, and for the communities that they operate in as well.”
Showing a Different Side of Mining
It’s important for us to show that there is so much more to the industry than hard hats and Tonka trucks. Enrik’s own experience is a great example of this. He was able to see how his natural love for science and engineering could be applied to a worthwhile career in mining. “I really love new and exciting things. I’ve always been fascinated with science and I knew I wanted to be at the forefront of developing and integrating new technology, and engineering was the perfect fit for that,” Enrik says.
So, what was the lure of mining? “Being in Australia everyone was talking about the mining industry. After doing a bit of research, I realised the mining industry is where I can have the biggest impact. It’s such a big part of the Australian economy and it’s part of so many people’s lives,” he says.
This is where we come in as an industry. We need to communicate to a wider audience how much the mining industry gives to the nation – it’s the backbone of Australia as a country.
Reaching Out to a New Generation
When it comes to attracting young people to the industry, Enrik puts it succinctly: “There’s definitely a lot of initiatives out there, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. A lot of young people are not aware of the opportunities that are in the mining industry. There’s a lot more work to be done to highlight those opportunities and to get people interested and excited about mining and engineering,” he says.
This is particularly the case when it comes to increasing awareness about the new technology and innovations that are coming into the mining industry. As Enrik puts it, “young professionals really are the key to future innovation and I want to make sure that they have the skills and the knowledge to be able to cope with it.” Enrik is playing a big part in this, both in his passion for sharing his experiences with school students and, more recently, on the committee of The Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s New Professionals’ Network.
“It’s something that I’m certainly very passionate about. I’ve been involved in going out to high schools all through university and this is my first year with Curtin Science and Engineering Outreach. I’ve really tried to go out to high school students and get them inspired and interested in science and engineering and the mining industry in general,” Enrik says.
“Recently with Young Engineers Australia we ran National Science Week. That was a big exhibition, and being in it with all these young students, primary and high school students, and seeing the energy and excitement they have about engineering things and learning how they work, was really exciting,” he says.
Speaking about his current role with The Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Enrik makes an important point. “A lot of people think that the Institute is only for professionals like engineers and scientists working in the mining industry, but actually anyone working in or with the mining industry is able to join. We’re trying to represent the whole industry,” he says.
Ultimately, with shortages at all levels of the industry, from metallurgist and mining engineers to geologists to diesel fitters, we need to be inspiring young people at every level of mining to attract the talent we need to flourish as an industry in the future.
Listen to the entire conversation with Enrik Mundt.