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A New Mining Boom Fuels MBA Specializations

The mining industry may seem old-fashioned, but it plays an important role in modern life. Everything we depend on is either made from minerals or relies on minerals for its production, according to the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, an international society of professionals in the minerals industry. Gold is used in electronic equipment such as computers and cell phones. Plumbing pipes and car parts are made of copper. Iron ore is used to make steel, which is in everything from skyscrapers to dinner knives. One of the world's major sources of energy, coal, is used to produce more than half of the electrical energy used in the U.S.

The mining industry is booming due to a growing demand for minerals, especially in emerging markets, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Revenues for the world's 40 largest mining companies leapt 32 percent to a record $435 billion, driven by surging commodity prices and a 5 percent increase in production output in 2010. Miners' net profits reached $110 billion -- a 156 percent increase over the previous year. Growth, however, could only exacerbate what Deloitte has identified as one of the industry's biggest challenges: a shortage of workers. Mining company founders are poised for retirement and replacements are becoming more difficult to find, according to Canada's The Globe and Mail. This is where earning a degree from an MBA program could help.

Business school for mining executives

To overcome the shortage of mining executives, the industry is pairing up with universities to train the next generation of global mining managers. In September 2012, the Schulich School of Business at York University in Canada is introducing an MBA specialization in Global Mining Management.

While many business schools are now offering varying areas of MBA specialization, this mining MBA is significant because it is based in Toronto, considered the mining finance capital of the world. Eighty percent of the world's mining equity financings have been done on Toronto exchanges, and Canadian-listed mining businesses account for 58 percent of the world's mining companies.

The Toronto-based business school will also offer executive programs in mining, as well as conduct research in this area, Schulich Dean Dezsö Horváth told Canada's Business News Network.

"An MBA specialization in mining is long overdue in preparing future business leaders for a key industry in Canada and around the world," Horváth said in a press release.

According to Canada's Financial Post, about a year and half ago, representatives from the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum approached Horváth to pitch the idea of an MBA focused on mining. Schulich had developed specializations in real estate and health care and focused on environmental and sustainability issues crucial to mining. Students also wanted to go into the booming mining industry. The business school decided to go ahead with the mining MBA.

"It's a very challenging time in the history of the mining sector due to the increasingly complex social, environmental and political climates worldwide," Richard Ross, executive-in-residence at Schulich and former CEO at Inmet Mining Corp., said in a press release. "A large focus of this specialization is to teach future managers and leaders the critical role they can play as responsible stewards of the world's resources."

The Aspen Institute ranks Schulich No. 2 in a global survey that identifies which MBA programs are doing the best job preparing future business leaders for environmental, social, and ethical challenges.

The Schulich mining MBA is a two-year business school program. Students typically take core business courses during the first year and specialization courses during the second year. Already introduced this fall, Managing Growth in the Global Mining Sector is the first course in the mining curriculum. Other specialization courses include Financial Fundamentals in Mining and Toward Sustainable Mining. Other classes such as Cross Cultural Management, project management, and Crisis Management are among the recommended electives.

Besides taking the required specialization courses, mining MBA students must complete real-life strategic consulting projects at mining companies. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in industry events, mine visits, and internships. When their degree is completed, mining MBA graduates could fill executive vacancies in the mining sector or work for businesses that support the mining industry such as financial institutions, engineering companies, consultants, and accounting and legal firms.

Why pursue mining MBA programs

MBA programs in mining should provide you the industry and business knowledge needed to efficiently join the management level of one of the world's most vital and challenging industries. They could also prepare you to provide business services to an industry with a quoted market value exceeding $2 trillion. A focus on sustainability during your mining MBA could also equip you to handle mineral resources responsibly.