The global mining and metals sector is experiencing a critical labour deficiency, according to a report by Ernst & Young.

An inadequate number of graduates, a rise in mining production in developing countries, an ageing workforce and “brain drain” in South Africa are putting the industry at risk.

Meanwhile, the industry’s demand for staff is on the rise, forcing mining companies to think of different ways to tackle the problem.

Countries such as China, India and Russia are witnessing a deficiency of skilled labour, with workers migrating to developed countries.

And in South Africa, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a shortage of skilled staff are injuring the industry.

In the past four decades nearly 33% of South African engineering graduates migrated to foreign countries for work. Such worldwide restraints are likely to persist.

Even the number of competent graduates from universities is inadequate, which has increased competition for skilled workers and the expected salaries of potential candidates.

Mining costs have risen as a result of the skills crisis. Ernst & Young predicts this is likely to continue with escalating raw material prices and equipment shortages.

The metals and mining sector’s expert workforce is also growing older and experienced employees are heading for retirement at a faster rate than they can be replaced.

In Canada alone, four in ten mining workers are expected to retire by 2014, according to the Ernst & Young report.