Feature: Dearth of engineers a bane to mining industry: PSME

EVEN with resurgence of the mining industry and above par salary grade, mining engineers in the country are still a dime a dozen.

The Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, in fact, rued that its members are already in their sunset years with no sufficient number of graduates to replace them. To illustrate the shortage, the group only has only counted 2,870 members over the past 80 years. Compared that to doctors who this year already numbered more than 100,000.

“We are in our 40s and 60s, even those who have already retired are coming back because of the demand,” Arsenio K. Sebial Jr., the group’s president, told the Times during their convention at the Waterfront Insular Hotel yesterday.

Schools, too, have stopped offering the course due to lack of enrolees. That’s the reason why the group has piloted a mentoring program with St. Paul University in Surigao City to provide them with technical expertise so provincial graduates can compete with bigger schools in Luzon and Visayas.

If successful, Sebial said they will replicate it to other schools and hopefully, multiply the number of mining engineer graduates.

He pointed to several reasons that have retarded the profession: one is its reputation for being unglamorous, way beneath business, medical or communication courses; second is the Filipinos’ aversion toward mathematics; and third is the volatile economy of the mining industry.

“It can experience boom for five years and then bust for 10 to 15 years so parents naturally don’t like their children to work here,” he said.

One thing going for the industry is its high pay grade, with at least P20,000 as a starting salary for newly graduates without prior experience. In 10-15 years, he can be promoted to a supervisory position and finally a management job which commands a six-figure salary.

DENR Asec. Jeremias L. Dolino agreed that mining engineers have become an endangered species, although they are important pillars in the country’s mining industry that saw revitalization in the past few years.

“Where are the mining engineers? It seems they are solitary they working in mines and sometimes they socialize but we socialize among ourselves not with other agencies and NGOs,” he said.

Projected 30% growth in 2010 with a gross investment of P110.4 billion, up from P105 billion last year.

Mineral exports, meanwhile, is expected to hit $3 billion this year or 80% higher compared to the $1.6 billion last year. The government also expects $1.2 billion investments in mining this year or nearly double last year’s figures of $640.2 million.

The investments are projected to reach $2 billion in 2013, Mr. Dolino said.
In Mindanao alone, he said there are four billion-dollar mining investments including the $2.2-billion Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. in Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte which will last until 2013; the $5-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Xtrata Copper’s Sagittarius Mines in South Cotabato; and the $1.1-billion Pujada nickel project in Davao Oriental. (Mindanao Times)

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