February 08, 2023

Lynas and Lifton Agree that the #1 Shortfall in the Critical Minerals Industries are People.

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The industrial manufacturing illiterates who populate the political and academic communities in North America and Europe don’t ever seem to notice, much less address, the core problem facing the non-Chinese rare earth industries, the lack of a skilled workforce at all levels.

The sport of bashing mining and processing of critical minerals has now essentially destroyed the American academic world’s support of mining and chemical process engineering. At the same time the cultural derogation of the mining profession in America has not made modern mining attractive to the young workers who can be trained to operate complex and dangerous if mishandled, mining equipment in extreme environments, frequently subsurface, in which mining is carried out.

Kathleen Conlon, the Chairwoman of Australian Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. (ASX: LYC), the non-Chinese world’s most advanced large miner/processor of rare earths said, just this week, that even in mining-friendly Australia “…with a rare earth boom gathering pace across the globe, the board [of Lynas] is acutely aware that we operate in a highly competitive market and that the specialized skills of our team are in high demand in the rare earths and other minerals processing industries.” Her point being that even in mining friendly Australia, where Lynas, alone, is spending more than 500 million dollars on enlarging its capacity to mine rare earths and to process the ore, there are not enough unengaged and experienced miners and engineers.

America’s blind elevation of social justice to the pinnacle of academic studies combined with its worship of “credentials” over proven experience and skill in STEM subjects has reduced America’s ability to rapidly respond to China’s fait accompli in monopolizing the rare earths’ industries.

It will take a generation of dedicated education and training to reconstruct an American and European critical minerals mining and processing industry.

The Chinese did it from scratch by utilizing Western academia and the Western mining industry. Our professors, our engineers, and our site managers trained the Chinese to do a world class job.

Does the West have the stomach and the brains to recreate, at home, the human basis of support that the mining and processing industries need to exist, much less to be competitive?

Time is running out.

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8 responses

  1. Tracy Weslosky Avatar
    Tracy Weslosky

    It is clear that the technology has gotten so far ahead of the people and training that we are all sitting comfortably in a Tesla driven electric vehicle not appreciating that what we should be preparing for is a colossal HR trainwreck. The Lynas management team is smart to be defending against dividends and should instead be starting a new wing of their local university to staff their processing facility. The next question will be — where will they find the students who….want to work? Oh my. We are past due for a comedian to start the rounds.

  2. David Hammond Avatar
    David Hammond

    Spot on Jack! One of the major obstacles to achieving Biden et. al. fantasy goals for EV domination of transport.

  3. Steve Mackowski Avatar
    Steve Mackowski

    The Chinese education model is outstanding. All operators are undergoing university based courses. So they are gaining operational knowledge and skills whilst achieving academic qualifications. At those businesses I have visited, the senior managers are approved by the university system to grade the students progress and then issue the qualification when the required level is attained. Just imagine the brain power when all operators have degrees, all mid level roles have masters degrees, all senior roles are PhD qualified. Absolutely staggering.

  4. rare earths investor Avatar
    rare earths investor

    From a RE retail investors point of view the lack of human resources here further emphasizes the problems that all those dozens of RE wannabees will face down the road should their projects ever prove real inground value. It’s now a race to ROW RE value chain emergence for regions, countries and entities with the RE prime movers attaining dominance in not only offtakes and strategic and/or private financing, but clearly in terms of acquiring skilled workers from the small pool available. All these factors, etc., will, IMHO, limit the emergence of the large majority of RE hopefuls. Thanks for the article. GLTA – REI

  5. Kenneth Ranson Avatar
    Kenneth Ranson

    “Her point being that even in mining friendly Australia, where Lynas, alone, is spending more than 500 million dollars on enlarging its capacity to mine rare earths and to process the ore, there are not enough unengaged and experienced miners and engineers.”

    I participated in the meeting online and this was most emphatically NOT Conlon’s point. She made her remarks in supporting a vote for extension of the executive stock plan, and not to suggest anything about miners or engineers.

    As far as the mining industry being held back by academia, Lynas is partnering with at least three universities to interpret the exploration data on their leases and to form a comprehensive plan for recovery of mineral values. That doesn’t really sound like the universities are holding Lynas back.

    1. Tracy Weslosky Avatar
      Tracy Weslosky

      A university degree on its own means nothing without the experience.

  6. Robert Richardson Avatar
    Robert Richardson

    Tracy’s comment overlooks Lynas’s sponsorship of specific tertiary education in Malaysia for years – that’s helped to ensure c95% of all staff at the LAMP are Malaysians!

    1. Tracy Weslosky Avatar
      Tracy Weslosky

      Fabulous. That takes care of Malaysia, but I am based in Ontario where our provincial government has agreed to invest 4Bn into the supply chain. Having been to Malaysia – it was one helluva plane ride. And Jack’s point —- is where are we going to secure experienced talent to deal with these aggressive growth strategies in NA? And for the record, I have also travelled to Australia and it ain’t next door…usually takes me 2-3 days to recover from the jet lag.

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