A survey of 125 mining executives internationally reveals that the outlook for the mining industry "has vastly improved" in the last four months, says Andrew Pollard, president of Vancouver's Mining Recruitment Group Ltd.
"2012 has been a year of tremendous volatility for the industry, felt by resources companies across all stages, from the junior explorers up to the large cap producers," Mining Recruitment Group (MRG) observed. "Thankfully, this new report provides evidence that the worst may in fact already be behind us."
For example, more than half of the respondents (55%) surveyed in the first week of October believe the mining sector will perform better in the second half of this year than it did in the first half. This is up significantly from the 22% of respondents surveyed in June, who thought things would get better in the second half of 2012.
"When asked about their short term (6-12 month) outlook on the overall strength of the mining industry, 47% of respondents hold a bullish view," said Pollard. "This is up remarkably from our Q3 polling where only 8% of executives held a bullish outlook and 38% had stated they were bearish."
While the executives' short term outlook has improved, 59% of those surveyed "were moderately to extremely concerned over a lack of investment capital moving into the industry over the next two years, down from 76% who held this view during our last polling in June."
"Down substantially also is concern over the volatility in commodities prices over the next two years with only 23% being moderately to extremely concerned, a marked difference from the 43% of the respondents who had indicated this during our last polling," said MRG.
However, an overwhelming 74% of those polled said their companies have made a concerted effort to reduce overheads including 70% who have scaled exploration and development; 60% who have reduced marketing and investor relations budgets; 35% who have laid off employees; 30% who reduced or eliminated incentive pay; and 10% who have made salary cuts.
"Though cost cutting is still under heavy scrutiny, for those that are currently employed, a small sign of relief can be had as 90% of executives indicated that they were not considering any further layoffs for the remainder of 2012," said MRG.
The survey also found that 66% of respondents do expect to hire new employees in the next six months. "This is a major reversal in outlook from our last polling where 60% had indicated that they would not be hiring," MRG noted.
"Of those companies that are planning to recruit, geologists will be in highest demand with 60% of those respondents indicating they will have a need," said MRG. "54% also indicated the need for mining engineers and good executive leaders don't fall far behind, with 29% of companies polled planning to make additions to their executive teams."
"Another positive sign is that companies are beginning to look at marketing again, with 23% of those planning to hire IR staff."
Meanwhile, as access to capital improves, 74% of those polled said they will look at acquisition opportunities, while 55% would also like to increase their exploration and development budgets.
Of those polled by MRG, 16% were executives from mining companies with market caps above $1 billion, 49% came from companies with market caps below $50 million, 14% from companies with market caps between $251 million to $1 billion, while 21% were from companies with market caps between $51 million to $250 million.
"The lion's share of responses came from executives at companies that would primarily be described as explorers, with 51%," said MRC. "Among those remaining, 14% were primarily at the development stage and 35% were producers."