South32 chief operating officer and former Illawarra Metallurgical Coal vice-president of operations Jason Economidis told Prime Minister Scott Morrison on a site tour this week that the mining industry was finding it increasingly difficult to recruit mining engineers because of the stigma associated with mining among many young people.
Mining was "losing the public relations battle", he reportedly told The Australian.
"I talk to all of our graduates when we employ them, and what they are suffering is they go to university and get heckled because they are in mining.
"In the next five years, I think we are going to really struggle because we just aren't generating enough [graduates]."
This shows the glaring disconnect between prevailing attitudes towards mining - especially among the young - and the reality of the benefits that it delivers to thousands of people across the nation.
The value of Australia's coal exports in October were up 3% on the previous month at $3.4 billion, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Federal resources minister Keith Pitt said the trade figures showed Australia's resources and energy sector continued to underpin the economy and lead the country's comeback as it emerged from the COVID-19 downturn.
"While 2020 has been a difficult year for many, with falls in global coal and oil prices, the trade data shows Australia's resources and energy sector remains resilient and ready to supply the world as global conditions improve," he said.
Young people who want to be a part of a world leading industry that is innovative and exciting should be encouraged to study mining related degrees at universities without having to endure the nasty political backlash being whipped up.
Mining engineering could turn out to be one of the best paid positions in the country. In the pay stakes mining engineers are starting to give orthopedic surgeons a run for their money.
Not only are there fewer local people embarking on mining careers, there are new projects being developed and planned for the next decades that should provide long-term stability and ample opportunities for promotion.
If Australia's coal mining sector wants to win the hearts and minds of the youth, maybe it should explain to them in clear and simple terms the long-term benefits they could expect to enjoy if they are prepared to ignore the heckling and political grandstanding.