I have read numerous articles indicating that the mining industry is seeing a shortage of experienced people, on both the technical and management side of the business.  Apparently the baby boomer generation is now nearing their retirement or early-retirement stage of life and there is a gap in the number of experienced people following behind.  I also hear anecdotally that there is a lack of engineers interested in taking on remote or international assignments, which really does become more difficult when a senior level person has a family.   I don’t work in the recruitment industry so I can only report what I have heard.
In a previous article (14. Miners – Why Have Your Own Independent Consultant?) I discussed why mining companies (or even consulting firms) should make use of the independent engineers as advisers or Board members. I understand from friends in the mining industry that many of the people nearing retirement are willing to take on consulting assignments or board or directors roles or other management roles.  The work can be either full time or part time and working independently or as “associates” with engineering firms.  So there likely is a significant network of experienced people out there; it’s just a matter of being able to tap into that network when someone needs specific expertise.  So how can one do this?
LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) currently seems to be the only global network for technical people and it is a great way to connect with engineers and geologists industry wide.  LinkedIn members typically work everywhere, at mine operations, consulting firms, financial houses, or are independently employed. Almost every technical person I know is now registered on LinkedIn although with varying degrees of LinkedIn activity or biographic detail posted.
The question is how to find these people when you are looking for a specific independent expertise for a short term or over the longer term.  Networking with people you already know seems to be the most common approach, however what if you need someone with particular knowledge and you don’t want to involve an entire engineering firm at this stage?
LinkedIn can be a great search mechanism for technical experts, and a keyword search can identify a lot of experts with very specific skill sets.  The downside of this is that many of these experts highlighted by the LinkedIn search may be fully employed at mining operations or with large consulting firms and may not be the independent consultant that you are looking for.
To my knowledge, there is no searchable online registry solely intended for independent geologists and engineers (if anyone knows of the existence of such an online registry…please let us know).   It is in the best interests of the entire mining industry to have some type of easily searchable independent consultant directory to be able to tap into the expertise that is out there.

2 thoughts on “27. Independent Consultants

  1. hardrockminer

    The shortage is a consequence of the industry wide retrenchment from about 1980 to 2005. Engineers my age or thereabouts are retiring, and there are few replacements int he 35 to 55 year age group, but lots of good people under 35 who will no doubt do a great job when they gain a bit more experience. For me, this bodes well, as I plan to work a few more years, but perhaps more as a consultant and less as an operator. A few months ago I supervised a group of consultants doing a due diligence, and all of them were in their late ’60’s an dearly ’70’s, so it appears I’m not the only person who still wants a work related challenge.

    Hiring an independent is a tricky business. In my view, old style networking is a good tool to find one. Linkedin can be another tool, to cast a wider net, but you don’t really know a lot other than what someone puts on their personal bio. I have links to dozens of people that I’ve worked with in the past, and that’s the good thing about Linkedin. It’s enabled me to find people I haven’t seen for many years…some of whom I had a lot of regard.

  2. Ken Kuchling Post author

    I recall reading somewhere about how companies can work share with retirees. Say for have an older engineer nearing retirement making $130,000 per year. So you bring in a younger engineer, pay them $80,000 per year and the retiree gets paid $50,000 for part time mentoring and guidance. So the net cost is still $130k but now you are training a younger person while still getting the experience of the experienced person at no extra cost. Its a win-win-win for all three parties.

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