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Mining, energy, oil and gas industry overview

Peter Nicholls

This is a growing, frontier industry that offers ambitious graduates the opportunity to make their mark (and take home a tidy salary too).

New Zealand’s mining industry is a significant national asset, contributing just over one per cent of annual GDP, thanks to the country’s abundant supplies of coal, silver, iron ore, limestone and gold. The mining industry is relatively lean, employing around 5,300 people. Professional pathways within the industry range from technical roles—such as mining engineer, geologist, and computer programmer—to equally important non-technical roles, such as project manager, machine operator, driver, or an administrator. 

In recent years, while mining has grown steadily, the oil and petroleum industry has faltered, in large part due to an April 2018 ban on the issuing of new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration. It remains to be seen whether underexplored reserves in the Great South Basin will join productive fields in the Taranaki Basin on the North Island’s west coast, such as Kapuni, Maui, Pohokura, and Kupe. The existing fields are responsible for providing around 60 petajoules of energy a year, with one petajoule equivalent, in energy content, to just over 28.4 million litres of regular petrol. New Zealand’s oil exports are currently valued at approximately $1.4 billion each year, with the industry employing around 11,000 people. 

The mining, energy, oil, and gas industries face a future in which they will be forced to respond to changing public sentiments regarding the use of finite natural resources, especially as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. Already, New Zealand derives 40 per cent of its primary energy supply from renewable sources.

Those employed in the mining, oil, and gas industries tend to have relatively high-paying jobs, earning an average salary of $101,400–or almost twice the national average salary of $58,900. Graduates can expect to earn less than the average upon starting their careers and see their pay rise steeply as they gain on-the-job experience. 

Job market outlook

With word of the mining sector’s high salaries having spread far and wide, its graduate programs now attract some of the country’s most ambitious and talented students. Suffice to say, getting a foot in the door could be a challenge! Having said that, the number of jobs available for qualified graduates is expected to increase, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, for example, predicting that engineering professionals are in high demand.

As New Zealand prepares for a shift towards electric vehicles and other energy storage technologies, its domestic oil industry, already facing the twin threats of dwindling reserves and increased fuel efficiency, is becoming more streamlined.

Green energy offers some of the most exciting opportunities, with major investors set to fund renewable energy technologies as quickly as they can be developed. So, if you’re an innovative thinker or technical expert, the world of green energy could offer a meaningful (and lucrative) career path. 

How to get hired

Traditionally, grads in the mining, energy, oil, and gas sector came from engineering, maths or IT background. However, as the industry evolves, employers are seeking grads from a more diverse range of disciplines, including, business, science, commerce, surveying, and communications.

Most major employers in this sector have dedicated graduate programs and begin accepting applications in March or June/July. Employers focus on hiring well-rounded grads who can demonstrate good communication skills, teamwork skills, and industry awareness. 

Key skills you need

Commitment to safety

Your commitment to safety is likely to be evaluated during the recruitment process, along with your ability to adapt to the company’s own safety protocols. Working in this industry can involve significant risks to both people and properties, so employers will expect you to take their safety protocols seriously.  


Communication skills are paramount for keeping yourself and other members of your team safe. They’re also invaluable for those wanting to move into the green-energy space, as many technologies are new or undergoing rapid development, and being able to communicate their advantages will be integral to getting them off the ground.

Technical ability

While soft skills will help you to submit a more well-rounded application, employers will require you to have an exceptional command of the technical skills inherent to your role. They also look favourably on candidates who can understand difficult concepts, communicate them effectively, and make sense of complex projects without delay.