The mining industry is worried a potential slowdown in China and is making less effort to attract the most qualified workers, a report shows.
The global survey of 374 mining companies comes only days after official Chinese data showed the economy for Australia's largest trading partner grew by 7.8% in the year to December 2012.
The result was an improvement on the previous quarter but the annual Mining Executive Insights report for 2012, by US industrial firm Ventyx, shows the resource sector is cautious about the global economy.
"Encouraging signs of new growth, albeit limited, in North America are offset by uncertainty in the EU and a potential slowdown of the Chinese economy, all of which translate into unpredictability for the mining sector," the report said.
As a result, mining companies are shifting from finding the most qualified workers to improving efficiencies.
Mining companies are also focusing more on expanding operations at existing sites instead of developing new sites, citing regulatory burdens as an impediment to ramping up new operations.
When it comes to challenges, workforce safety was cited as the most important concern for miners, with 31% of surveyed recipients nominating it as their top priority.
This was followed by managing capital projects (25%), maximising production effectiveness (21%) and equipment reliability (8%).
The report did not reveal which mining companies had taken part in the study, but coal, iron ore and copper operators were surveyed.