15 important facts that every new starter needs to know about the Australian hardrock mining industry.
- The boom is back on, with strong demand for new workers in exploration and hardrock underground mines across Australia. There are 1000’s of these well paid, full time jobs, going on hardrock mines (Gold, Nickel, Copper, Rare Earths) all over the country. Go to Seek and type “Underground” into the first box and give it a spin, then you will see all the jobs come up.
- There are no new jobs in Iron Ore or Oil & Gas jobs. There are of course the handful of jobs that come up each year from natural attrition. However, both Iron Ore and Oil & Gas still have lots of experienced workers, that lost their jobs in the last downturn, to choose from. The traineeships offered each year are more about reducing wage costs, than having to hire/train new starters.
- People keep trying to do the things that helped get a job in past booms. The 3day dump truck course is the classic example of this, it worked 25years ago for a short time when the Iron Ore mines were first hiring. Now instead of helping you get the job, it just shows the employer that you don’t understand how the industry works in regards to ticketing. If you want a surface job then you need a HR license, for hardrock underground it’s a manual car license.
- There is no national (Australian wide) system in hardrock mining, only the state systems. The states own the minerals in the ground and don’t want to give up control to the federal government, this is why they use their own systems, which includes non-transferable tickets. This is why none of the job ads ask for formal qualifications, only years of experience and why there are no TAFE courses available in hardrock mining.
- Mining tickets in hardrock mining are only valid on the mine they are issued on. These tickets are non-transferable. Every mine you work on will require you to obtain their tickets. Each time you move jobs or to a different mine, you will have to re-sit the tickets again on the new mine. The tickets often sold as “Mining tickets” come under the RII competencies that are used for Coal in QLD and Oil & Gas. The hardrock mines around the country come under their states systems like the WA Mining Act & Regulations, which requires all ticketing to be site based.
- Yes, a new starter gets paid between $300-$495 a day (depending on the company and job) as a nipper, underground truck operator or driller offsider.
- Australian Hardrock underground mines have become some of the safest most productive mines in the world. In the last 20 years they are seen as world’s best practice. Australian miners (earning $30K a month) and mining companies (Byrnecut, Barminco, Ruc, Pybar etc..) are running mines around the world using Australian Shift boss’s, Foreman’s and jumbo operator’s to do it.
- The robots and driverless trucks aren’t going to be taking your hardrock underground mining job anytime soon. It’s only the iron ore mines in the north of WA (that are strip mining) that can set up big exclusion zones, where these trucks can be used safely. A very small part of the overall industry.
- The majority of information online about mining in Australia is just wrong or not reported correctly (go and look at number 15, bet you never heard that before). Take the confined space myth, if you are on the east coast just ask anyone "you need a confined space ticket to work in a hardrock underground mine". The only place on a hardrock mine that needs a ticket like this, is to scrub the inside of the tanks on the mill. This is shutdown work, short term maintenance work which is never a full-time job. There are always lots of people putting their hand for this type of work. This is why the pay rate has almost halved in the last 2years. Once you start in shutdown work its hard to make the jump to a mining job.
- Moving from a service job on a mine site (cook, cleaner, bus driver, shutdown worker etc) to a mining job is not as easy as you would think. Often made out on many websites/pages as the best way to “get your foot in the door”, it almost never happens. Most mines have very strict rules (the 6month off site rule to change employers is common) regarding poaching staff, which makes moves like this almost impossible.
- 3 out of 5 green (no mining knowledge) new starters, fail in the first 6 months. If you make a mistake (written warning) in the probation period (first 6 months), then it normally means a window seat (the sack). The industry always goes through lots of people when we hit an upswing and have to hire new starters.
- The Hardrock mining employers want people with mining knowledge, they want people that know their systems of work and the terms being used on the mine site. If you know this information, then you have something to offer the employers, showing this knowledge in an interview will give the foreman/PM the confidence to hire you.
- The hardrock mining companies should pay for the pre-employment medical and will put you through any courses they require (like first aid and working at heights) as part of your site inductions. Because of the rigorous on site ticketing system don't be surprised if they make you re-do all courses/tickets even if you have just done them as part of your on site induction.
- The S11 often referred to as a “General Induction” is only required to work on coal mines in QLD. It can’t be used in NSW where the coal industry requires you to complete their own induction. I don’t know of any Hardrock mines that requires the S11, only coal mines in QLD and again, instead of helping you get the job, it just shows the employer that you don’t understand how their industry (hardrock mine) works.
- The majority of mining jobs are classed as unskilled labour by the Australian government. This means they have to be filled by Australian citizens or permanent resident, no overseas workers.
All these facts, and more are explained in the Australian Mining seminar which is part of both the Workready and Do it Yourself packages run by Underground Training. If you have any questions about the facts above, please leave them in the link to the right and I will get back to you as soon as possible.