THE Goldfields Mining Expo (GME) bills itself as the premier trade event for the mining industry in WA, and the biennial exhibition continues to grow. This year, along with the display of goods and services visitors have come to expect, GME will focus on employee satisfaction as the mining industry continues to struggle with skills shortages.
The agenda includes a recruitment day and programs designed for the mining community, specifically women and families, as GME looks at ways to attract and retain workers in mining. The event is set to run from  October 30 through to November 1 at the Kalgoorlie Boulder Racecourse.
Admission to the expo is free. It drew more 3000 visitors in 2010, attracting people from all facets of mining, from senior management to tradespeople. Reed Mining Events exhibition director Paul Baker said he expected that number to grow this year.
“Our objective is to build on this and increase the number of high-quality buyers,” Mr Baker said.
“We have put in place a marketing plan along with a range of new initiatives which have been successful at our other mining events across the country.”
Reed aims to provide information to all stakeholders in mining, including frontline positions such as operators, maintenance crews, foremen, leading hands and others. November 1 is Careers and Recruitment Day, which will focus on job opportunities in the region for those with the requisite training, skills and experience, and provide advice on how miners can develop their careers.Throughout the GME, there will be help available to miners and their families to enable them to adjust to the industry lifestyle.
Women in mining
Women make up an ever-growing percentage of the overall mining workforce. A decade ago, 10 per cent of mine employees were women. That figure has grown to 15 per cent – about 34,000 women – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Mr Baker said that women were playing an increasingly important role in the Goldfields, as well as around Australia and internationally.
As such, he said GME’s Women in Mining Day would include special presentations and a networking event for women in the region’s mining sector.
“Whether at operator or service technician level through to supervisors, pit managers or engineers, up to the very highest levels of senior management, [women] are a major part of the industry,”
he said. “Their participation in the mining industry is only going to increase as mines, suppliers and service providers look to attract new entrants in the face of looming skills shortages.”
Highlights for the day’s program will include an information session during which successful women will discuss the rewards and challenges of working in mining, and a networking event, Mr Baker said.
Family matters
Kalgoorlie and its surrounds have a stake in attracting and retaining miners and their families. With this in mind, GME organisers saw that reaching out to frontline miners both in town and throughout the regionwas a valuable strategy. As part of that plan, organisers also decided to offer ideas and information to mining companies to enable them to effectively engage with and manage workers and their families.
Mining Family Matters (MFM), an on online resource devoted to supporting those in mining, will have an information booth at the show aimed at mining companies, workers and their families. Its team will also present information and advice sessions.
MFM’s website provides free, practical information and support to families in the mining and resources sector, and attracts more than 10,000 visitors a month from across Australia.
MFM co-founder Alicia Ranford has experienced many of the challenges that fly in, fly out workers and their families face. Her husband did such work, and she and their two young children struggled, which inspired her to reach out to others in similar situations.
“I think the very nature of mining puts pressure on workers and their families not found in those employed in a 9-to-5 job. There are ups and downs, moving to new towns, not knowing anyone…the remoteness of it, and not having the facilities and shopping like the city you come from,” she said.
“It’s hard to maintain a somewhat normal lifestyle, but there are things you can do as a family to make it work for you.”
This will be the first time MFM has exhibited at GME, but members of the group have been to the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies convention plus mining exhibitions at Mackay and Newcastle. Mrs Ranford said Reed recognised that miners needed support in dealing with the isolation of their work.
“We’re looking to talk to workers and their families, if they bring them, just to make sure to spread the word that MFM is there, free of charge,” she said.
Recruiting to the area
Although the Goldfields region has experienced continuing challenges, including attracting and retaining quality mining staff the general trend for its mining sector was sound, Kalgoorlie Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Hugh Gallagher said.
“While skilled labour availability is showing a negative trend – with well-educated and trained employees moving out of the region for higher-paying positions in the north of WA – the quality of life for people living and working in the Goldfields is considered a plus,” he said.
A shortage of skilled workers is a common problem throughout the mining sector.
Companies are always on the lookout for reliable workers, but the need for structural fitters and welders, mechanical fitters, electricians, fixedand mobile plant operators, structural steel fixers, motor mechanics, crane operators, carpenters and concreters is especially acute, according to industry analysts.
Mr Gallagher said that it was crucial for mining companies to differentiate themselves to attract workers: some people preferred fly in, fly out work while others wanted to settle in one place with their families. The size of an operation could also be a factor.
“Everyone has to have a point of difference: what is special about your site that makes me want to work for you?” he said.
“We all need people [so] the strength is with the employee more so than with the employer. The industry is slowing up, but not anywhere near to the stage to where we have spare capacity to the people we need.”
AngloGold Ashanti Australia draws workers from the Kalgoorlie region, which is well-known for producingworkers raised and trained for gold mining work. The company is scheduled to have a significant presence at GME.
“They’ve got one of Australia’s most exciting new gold mines out of Tropicana.
Their potential strength is that they’ve got a fairly large population – 30,000-plus here in Kalgoorlie – and they’d prefer to get the majority of their people from here,” Mr Gallagher said.
The show will offer many things relevant to the sector. Australian and international companies and organisers said that delegates would see an extensive selection of extraction, production and processing items and services making their debut at this year’s GME.
Heavy equipment releases, safety systems, specialist underground equipment, communications systems and the latest precision positioning products will be among the items featured at more than 220 stands.
Nearly 50 exhibitors have provided details on products and services they will be launching at GME 2012.
Highlights will include new industry-specific equipment such as heavy-duty forklifts; concrete mixers; lighting systems; vehicle safety options; plastic export pallets; wheel loaders; ventilation fabric; portable gas-detection units; mobile parts washers; utes; friction lining material; radio/GPS systems; slurry and liquid density measuring gauges; conveyor belt vulcanising presses; industrial planetary gear units; core trays; hydraulic isolators; arc welders; and water dispensers.
“In addition, GME 2012 is a one-in-two-year chance to network with peers, suppliers and customers, and as organisers, we’ve provided plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Baker said.