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Attracting young talent to mining: Overcoming stereotypes and embracing diversity

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Courtney Onstad’s pursuit of gold wasn’t just about the thrill of discovery; it was about the science behind it. Geoscience, she explains, extends far beyond mere rocks—it’s the study of how mountains rise, ecosystems thrive, and the Earth’s history unfolds through fossils and formations.

At 29, Onstad represents a coveted demographic in the mining industry: young talent. Canada aims to lead the global race for critical minerals, essential for technologies like wind turbines, electric vehicles, and solar panels. However, attracting a steady workforce poses a challenge, with mining’s historical association with risks and environmental concerns deterring potential recruits.

A recent survey found that while mining offers lucrative opportunities, it’s often overlooked due to its perceived hazards and physical demands. Changing this perception is crucial for the industry’s sustainability. Efforts to highlight mining’s safety record and its role in supporting the economy are underway. Initiatives like the “We need mining, mining needs you” campaign aim to present mining as a modern, environmentally conscious career choice.

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Despite the industry’s strides in safety and sustainability, concerns about its environmental impact persist. Mining companies must address these issues transparently, acknowledging the challenges and outlining their commitment to responsible practices. Sarah Campbell, a geotechnician, stresses the importance of honest conversations about mining’s environmental footprint to attract younger generations to the industry.

Campbell emphasizes the need for diversity in mining, particularly gender diversity, where women remain underrepresented. Efforts to promote gender equality, like those led by Women in Mining Canada, are vital for creating a more inclusive workforce.

Raiyana Umar, a chemical engineering student, exemplifies the next generation of women entering the mining industry. Her advocacy for gender diversity in sciences underscores the importance of empowering women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

In conclusion, attracting and retaining young talent is essential for the mining industry’s future. By addressing perceptions, promoting diversity, and prioritizing sustainability, mining can position itself as a vital contributor to Canada’s economy and the global transition to cleaner technologies.

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