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Extractive and mineral processing

The UK extractive and mineral process sub-sector provides the essential raw materials for use by the construction, agricultural, manufacturing and energy production sectors.

This sub-sector covers: deep coal mines and opencast coal working; mining and agglomeration of lignite; extraction and agglomeration of peat; manufacture of solid fuel; mining of iron ore, uranium, thorium, and other non-ferrous metal ores; quarrying of ornamental and building stone, limestone, gypsum, chalk and slate; operation of gravel and sand pits; mining of clays, kaolin, chemical and fertiliser minerals; production of salt; manufacture of cement, lime, plaster, ready-mixed concrete, and mortars; cutting, shaping and finishing of ornamental an building stone; and other mining and quarrying activities.

Employment in the sub-sector has remained relatively stable over the past few years. However, its success depends heavily on the success of the construction sector. The outlook for the future is fairly positive, with fewer expecting their business and workforce to decrease and more expecting it to remain the same.

Companies face some serious issues in the future, in particular a continuing lack of demand for their products, competition from within the UK and Energy costs. However they are taking some positive measures including finding new markets, developing new products and reducing production costs.

Key statistics:

  • There are an estimated 86,000 people employed in the sub-sector, across 10,000 workplaces.
  • Workers in the sub-sector tend to be full-time and directly employed, rather than on a contract basis.
  • Work is often shift-based, especially in lower levels jobs.
  • 77% of the workforce is male.
  • 89% of the workforce is white.
  • 8% of workforce is 16-24 years, 22% 25-34 years, 27% 35-44 years, 22% 45-54 years, 19% 55-64 years and 2% 65 years and over.
  • 15% of the workforce considers themselves to have a disability.
  • 18% of the workforce has a Level 1 or entry level qualification, 25% a Level 2, 23% a Level 3, 6% a Level 4 and 19% a Level 5 qualification.
  • Annual turnover for the sub-sector is currently around £9 billion.
  • There are 2,741 sole traders in the sub-sector.

Jobs in the sub-sector range from: shot firer, weighbridge operator, road builder, goods vehicle driver, trainee engineer, miner, sea person, logistics manager, processing plant manager, geologist, estate manager, quarry manager

Generally, the skill needs for the future will be in higher level management and technical operations. There will be a continuing need for health and safety skills in the sub-sector, and it will become more important for people to be multi-skilled and able to work across several areas of the business. Skill shortages in the sub-sector include:

  • Employability skills, such as team-working, having a good attitude, and using initiative
  • Craft and Technical skills, such as driving heavy plant machinery and blasting
  • Management and Leadership skills

The largest occupational groups in the sub-sector are:

  • Process Plant and Machine Operatives
  • Managers and Senior Officials
  • Professional Occupations

The majority of companies in the sector (82%) are located in England, with 7% of the total in Scotland, 6% in Wales and 5% in Northern Ireland. 81% of employers in the sector employ between 2-9 people, 19% employ 11-49 people and less than 1% of all companies employ more than 200 people. Sources suggest that more than 80% of the sub-sector is in around 8 major companies

Recruitment of new staff is significantly lower than in previous years and so few companies report having vacancies. However in addition to these, 8% of companies say they have skills gaps within their existing workforce. The main gaps are amongst Process Plant and Machine Operatives, Skilled Trades and some Professional staff. The gaps are mainly in technical or practical skills and are attributed to a lack of experience.

Source: Proskills AACS LMI report 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey – Extractive and Mineral Processing