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University of Queensland Preparing Young Mining Engineers for Industry 4.0

Mining engineering education will enter a new era with an agreement signed between The University of Queensland and a subsidiary of a Japanese conglomerate. A Future Mining Systems Initiative Director position will be established at UQ to drive the expansion of technology education in mining engineering while endeavouring to increase Australia’s supply of skilled mining professionals.

The Memorandum of Understanding follows the implementation of a new engineering program and course structure, offering students the choice to major in Mining Engineering while pursuing a specialisation in Civil, Mechanical or Mechatronic Engineering.

The Vice-Chancellor of UQ stated that the initiative aimed to address the sector’s demand for highly skilled workers with a broad skill set and an innovative mindset.

She noted that it is known that mining engineering students will still need the knowledge they gain from the traditional curriculum for the industry of the future. However, they will also require additional elements, and it is not sufficient to simply add more content to the degree.

The company’s initial commitment of $750,000 over three years will focus on integrating digital technologies such as automation, data analytics and robotics into the new curriculum.

The Chief Executive Officer of the subsidiary stated that the demand for skilled mining engineers was not only increasing year on year, but the traditional curriculum needed to fundamentally change along with the evolution of technology.

Currently, there are too few graduating mining engineering students to meet industry demand, he noted. When it was learned that mining engineering students currently make up only two to five per cent of wider engineering enrolments at UQ, the team knew that something different was needed in addition to typical scholarships and research grants.

Now, more than ever, the industry is trying to identify revolutionary ways to adapt to the age of digital transformation and decarbonisation.

In the financial year 2020, the value added by the mining industry in Australia amounted to approximately AU$206.24 billion. The county’s mining industry includes the exploration and mining of gold, silver, iron ore, and coal reserves, among many other resources.

The global mining market is expected to grow from $1641.67 billion in 2020 to $1845.55 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4%. The growth is mainly due to the companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID-19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges. The mining market is expected to reach $2427.85 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 7%.

The Asia Pacific region was the largest region in the global mining market, accounting for 71% of the market in 2020. North America was the second largest region accounting for 9% of the global market. The Middle East was the smallest region in the global mining market.

Government policies to support the mining industry is expected to drive the mining market. Governments are providing subsidies and encouraging foreign direct investments (FDI) in the mining industry. The amount of government support includes the support through the government’s public finance institutions such as bilateral development banks and export credit agencies investing in mining projects, fiscal support through budget allocations and tax exemptions, and investments through majority state-owned mining and utility companies.

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