Hardrock Underground Miner, the career that can take you around the world

There has again been a lot of talk in the media about the skill shortage in the mining industry. While the reports are about mining jobs that involve degrees, I wanted to talk about the other jobs open to people. What jobs am I talking about?

To a person that is Green (the industry term used to describe someone with no mining knowledge) these jobs are best described as the working jobs. That have to be done to keep a mine going. I wanted to lay out the career pathway a new starter to the industry can take. Starting from their first $300+ a day job all the way through to the $25K a month job overseas.

I know a lot of people have a hard time excepting the high wages paid to what appear to be unskilled jobs, but there is a very good reason miners get paid so much money. While the jobs are often repetitive, how they are preformed has a direct impact on how well the mine runs and if it makes a profit of not. The more the miners get paid, the bigger the impact their job has on the operation. Each job if done well, can see a company profit’s soar. Likewise, when mistakes are made it can quickly become a costly affair. I have seen mistakes that have cost millions and worked with those that have made companies millions. Just don’t lose sight of why miners get paid so much money, their skill and experience.

Most people will start out as a Nipper or Truck driver, sometimes people get in working as a sampler for the Geo’s. Once you have found your feet, you will be given the opportunity to learn the skills involved in the next level of jobs. Service crew or the Paste crew is normally the next step, with a pay rise, going up to $500 a day. These are the jobs that involve a small group of miners. Working together to install and later remove the services on each level of the mine, that are used in the mining process.

After 12months – 2years of learning the job and then showing the shift boss and foreman that you can get the job done safely, in a reasonable time, you will be invited to start work with charge up, or go back onto the haulage crew to learn the bogger. This next step up sees a pay increase to $600-$800 a day. This is a level that many people find themselves at for the rest of their mining career, happy with the job and earning good money they chose to go no further, up the ladder. The only downside of working on a good site is, the top jobs don’t come up all that often, when people are happy, they tend to stay. This means that advancement from this level can often involve a change of mine.

The next level are the drills, long hole and jumbo. The long hole pays up to $900 a day and sees you working by yourself, drilling to a plan supplied by the engineering department. The jumbo is where the biggest wage is made, with day rates of $1500 not uncommon for those in decline crews. These crews are normally on a meterage rate as part of their pay. Required to drill up to 70 holes (to then be filled with explosive), how well this job is done has a huge impact on how fast the mine is advanced. This is the reason for the high wage.

Once you have been in the industry for 5 years and you have spent time doing each job, including one of the drills for at least 3months, you can apply to sit for the Western Australian Underground Shift Supervisors ticket. This is the one formal qualification for the workers that carries weight within the industry. So much so, you get workers from other states (that don’t have/require a Ticket system) coming to WA to sit the ticket, in order to advance their career. Shift bosses earn, depending roster and company, between $160K -$200K a year and often have other bonuses/perks involved in the job, shares being one.

The last job, is the top job, the foreman. This is the role that ties everything together, it’s the foreman’s job to work with the professional departments (engineering, geology and survey) to make sure appropriate targets are set and the plan is workable (just because the computer says you can do it doesn’t mean it will work down the hole). Foreman's earn $220K+ a year and like the shift bosses they have other bonuses/perks.

Once you have your shift bosses ticket then you can look at the overseas work. With all the major underground mining companies running mines around the world using Australian’s to fill the Shift boss, foreman and training roles. There is lots of work in a number of different countries, these expats work a roster of 2months on 1 month off, these guys are earning $25k a month (it’s an average over the year so includes the month off). This is where a mining career can take you. So what can you do if you are interested? Can I take a course down at my local TAFE?

The short answer is no. The reason? The information you have to learn when you start is unique to the industry. It takes less than a week to present and the rest of the training happens on a needs based system. The employer will send you on the training as you go up the ladder, but again this training only requires days to present. Add to that the fact that each employer has to be able to show that you have been trained correctly (the employer knows that for each new employee that they hire they will have to spend the time and money training) no matter how much experience they have. There is not a lot of incentive for either TAFE (they want courses to be six months as a minimum) and the employer (they don’t want people that take 6 months to learn what should only take a week) to spend the time and money to set it up. There have been a number of attempts but all have failed for one reason or another.

The good news is that a group of WA shift bosses in 2009 saw that there is never going to be a new starters course written with TAFE, so they sat down and wrote a course designed for new starters to get up to speed. The information is what they want you to know before going underground on their crew. In 2015 these courses where put online and they now make up an important part of the pathway I use to get new starters into the industry. The 2 packages I offer are designed to give a person the best start possible to their mining career and include how to make your resume mining friendly. “Do it yourself” cost $495 and “Workready” is my full service package for $1250, this includes me redoing your resume for you, one on one interview prep and testing of your new mining knowledge. You can check out the course in the video below or if you want more information, follow the links or leave a message in the sections provided.

Until next time


The Mining Coach

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