A "massive contraction" in the number of universities offering degree courses in mining engineering is putting the UK’s extractive sector at risk, MPs say.
The government has been urged to "get its act together" in support for the mining industry in a report from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, which warned of a major loss of mining skills caused by the ageing profile of the workforce.
The number of mining engineering courses on offer in the UK has gone down from seven to just one in the past 20 years, according to the report, which urges the government to work with industry and educational institutions to promote mining as a rewarding and exciting career.
The news comes after the government announced in April that two of three remaining UK deep-pit coal mines face closure by the end of 2015.
Committee chairman Adrian Bailey said: "There is currently a lack of clear government leadership for the extractives sector, with the industry cutting across a host of departments.
"During our enquiry it became clear to us that this is not to the benefit of mining companies. The government needs to get its act together to provide coherent support for the extractives sector and ensure a single Business Department minister has clear responsibility for domestic extractive policies."
More needs to be done to improve the social and environmental performance, transparency and reputation of UK mining companies, according to the MPs, to encourage more investment into the sector.
They argue that a social responsibility index should be put in place to enable investors to look into and rank mining companies according to factors such as governance ethics, community relations, and the management of climate change.
“Extractive companies contribute to the UK in a number of ways, through taxes, dividends, licenses and the employment of British workers. But, reports of poor practice around the world are a cause for concern and give extractive industries a bad name,” added Bailey.
“The UK should lead the world in corporate transparency and social responsibility. A rigorous index would help achieve this goal, assist responsible investors and provide an incentive for all extractive companies to conduct themselves in a socially and environmentally responsible way.”
A Business Department spokesman said: "We will now consider the recommendations of the BIS Select Committee report in depth before responding in detail."