The lack of qualified drilling staff could take the glint off the current gold-lined period operators in mineral industries are enjoying says the peak industry body.
Australian Drilling Industry Association chief executive officer Peter Hall says the industry is very strong, with buoyant iron ore and gold markets that have been allowed to continue operating during the pandemic.
A lack of staff is now the biggest barrier operators faced, he says.
“… And it’s been growing for three or four years now, a lack of people but it’s really to a point where drilling contractors won’t buy more rigs or expand their slips because there’s no people to put on.
“The only way they can get people is poaching from another drilling contractor and people aren’t really all that keen to do that because it just starts a bloody bidding war and then wages go through the roof again and that just impacts costs.”
The number of females on drill rigs has not changed much in 50 years says Mr Hall, who estimates one per cent of the offsiders and drill superintendents are women.
It’s been more than 40 years since Peter Hall started working in minerals and water drilling as an apprentice fitter manufacturing rigs.
Accounting for leaps in technology, conditions and safety, it might well be 40 light-years ago.
Experience tells him that drillers also need to look to the end of the current super-cycle, Mr Hall says.
“We never know how long it’s going to last. Sensible ones always know that there’s an end at some point.
“Normal cycles are usually, you get perhaps two or three good years when things go well, and then once things start to tip over the wrong way, it slides down pretty quickly.
“ … some of the rates a couple of years’ ago were pretty poor because the market was very competitive and at the same time they were expected to still invest in keeping equipment in top condition, invest in people and training and everything else.
“Let’s just hope, fingers crossed, we get a couple of good years and we get some payback now.”