Specialist engineers will be amongst the most coveted professionals in the mining sector this year, with a significant number of temporary contract positions up for grabs.

A new report by recruitment company Hays says engineers specializing in certain areas related to mining operations are set to enjoy improved jobs prospects this year despite the best days of the Australian resources sector being well in the past.

According to the report, demand will be especially strong for engineers working in the areas of safety, reliability, business improvement, mechanical, electrical and mining engineering.

“There has been a slight up-swing in hiring…[although] we don’t foresee the resources industry returning to the boom days in the near future,” the report said.

Although the mining industry has logged a modest decline in overall recruitment levels, different industry areas and regions of the country are enjoying varying levels of performance.

While coal companies continue to cut costs, with demand potentially hampered in the future by the shale gas boom in North America and expanded production of LNG in Australia, the iron ore sector is expected to enjoy a better bill of long-term health given the indispensable role of steel in the construction of new buildings and infrastructure.

In Western Australia, Hays’ figures indicate that recruitment has lifted over the past several month as a result of rising demand from the iron ore sector.

Chris Kent, Hays’ state regional director for West Australia, said the iron ore market remains very busy at the moment, with areas related to production performing especially well.

While investment in new mines has eased, existing mines remain extremely active, and a number of companies have recently logged record-high production levels.

Demand for people with iron ore experience is especially acute in areas such as reliability and process improvements, including “the lean manufacturing skills that come out of our dwindling manufacturing sector.”

Other areas of strong demand in Western Australia include crusher operators, mining engineers and supervisors.

In the Queensland coal sector, where companies are striving to cut costs, demand for maintenance planners and shutdown planners will remain strong in the near-term, with a shift away from FIFO towards drive-in-drive-out workers on economic grounds.