About 18 months ago I wrote an article for Australian Mining Review on 15 important facts that every new starter needs to know.
I have decided to write an updated version for 2021 with 12 points for everyone trying to get an entry level job without a degree or trade.
This is everything that an entry level person without experience should know.
There are lots of good paying jobs, entry level jobs, going that anyone with a manual car license and some mining knowledge can get into, leading to careers with jobs paying $1500 a day.
These are the 12 things new starters need to know.
1,The boom is still on
China’s new policy of internal circulation as well as the Belt and Road trade is supporting prices. It’s all about everything they need to build a battery and making things to sell, with those batteries in them.
This has caused strong demand for new workers on hardrock mines across Australia. There are thousands of these well paid, full time jobs, going on Gold, Nickel, Copper, Rare Earths and many more mines all over the country.
Go to Seek and type “Underground” into the first box and give it a spin, you will see all the jobs come up.
The entry level jobs you are looking for are the Nipper, Truck Operator, Diamond Driller Offsider and Agi Operator jobs. If you prepare yourself properly, people get taken for Paste Crew and Service Crew jobs as well.
The ads ask for experienced people but that’s more of a wish/hope from the employers, as people with experience have been very thin on the ground since 2017. This has made it hard, if not impossible to fill the lower paid jobs on the crew with experienced people. So it’s become entry level.
2, You have to want the money to make it in mining
Otherwise it’s just too hard, 12 hour days, time away from family and friends are just a few of the things workers have to put up with that makes this type of work hard, very hard.
You don’t have to be a total money whore, although you will meet lots of individuals that are.
However you do need to have to have a plan or purpose (like a house or business) around the money you are making and what you are doing with it.
People with plans and purpose (that need/want the money) are the ones that make it.
The underground employers hired lots of people during the last nickel boom (2005-07) that were working degree jobs in Perth on around $65K a year. They offered them $90K to drive a truck and “have a whole week off every 3” (standard 2&1 roster). Lots jumped at the chance of $25K extra and a week off. A few stayed, but most went back to their old jobs after a few months, it was just too hard (12 hour days and the pressure of the job), the extra money wasn’t enough to keep them in the job.
You need to want the money!
3, The media are way off on where the entry level mining jobs are
They keep on doing stories on jobs that require degrees and trades, instead of the no experience, entry level jobs that you just need a manual car license for.
Degree and Trade jobs are very important but require years of training and only make up about a 1/3 of the jobs on a hardrock underground mine.
The majority of jobs are classed as unskilled, which are found on the Processing Mill or in the Mine itself as a Miner.
Its these jobs that the employers need to fill the most at the moment (they need bums on seats) and can be obtained with very little qualifications.
These jobs only require a manual car license (yes, you only need a manual car license to drive an underground truck), police clearance, medical and a short training package, for people to get the employers attention and the job.
Employers are screaming for people and have no choice to fill the Nipper, Truck Operator, Diamond Driller Offsider, Agi Operator, even Paste Crew and Service Crew jobs with entry level people.
4, Iron Ore and Coal employers are rolling out driverless trucks
The big 3 are doing it on all their strip mines, by setting up big exclusion zones, where these trucks can be used safely.
If you start on one of these mines you need to work out where you are going to be in 2-5 years time?
On site making $150K a year or in an office in the city making $75K clicking a mouse?
If we use BHP as an example, I have been told by many people (because management keep making speeches on site and sending emails out) that the plan is to reduce onsite numbers across their Iron Ore sites from the current 6,000 to 6,500 people plus, down to only 850 people. They are doing the same thing to their Coal mines in North QLD.
There are a handful of jobs that come up each year (that the media make big stories about) from natural attrition, they end up with tens of thousands applying for the limited traineeship roles offered.
5, The traineeships offered in Iron Ore and Coal are all about reducing wages
It only takes 3-6 weeks to teach someone how to drive a truck. The majority of trainees are doing the full job by themselves after a couple of months. This means that the employers get 10 months of cheap labour (it often works out to be less than $25 an hour).
If you do take a traineeship the question that I ask people is, where are you going to be in 2-5years time and how much you are going to be earning?
On site making $150K plus a year or in an office in the city making $75K clicking a mouse still doing a 12 hour day?
6, People keep trying to do the things that helped get a job in past booms
The 3 day dump truck course is the classic example of this, it worked 25 years ago for a short time when the Iron Ore mines were first hiring.
Now instead of helping you get the job in the hardrock industry, it just shows the employers that you don’t understand how their mine works in regards to ticketing.
For hardrock underground you only need a manual car license.
If you want a surface job then you need a HR license.
7, There is no national (Australian wide) system in hardrock mining
The hardrock mines only use the state systems they are located in.
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.
These tickets come under the state systems like the WA Mining Act & Regulations (seen as world’s best practice), which requires all ticketing to be site based.
Every mine you work on will require you to obtain their tickets for their site.
Each time you move jobs or to a different mine, you will have to re-sit the tickets again on the new mine, even if you are working for the same employer.
The tickets that are sold to people as “Mining tickets” come under the RII competencies, which is the national system that Coal in QLD and Oil & Gas industry use. The hardrock industry does not use this system, which is lost on the media and allows people selling these products to take advantage through lack of awareness.
8, Lots of information online about mining in Australia is just wrong
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 underground gold 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 up for this type of work. Once you start in shutdown work, it’s hard to make the jump to a mining job for lots of different reasons.
9, Moving from a service job to a mining job is not as easy as you would think
Often made out on many websites/Facebook pages as the best way to “get your foot in the door”, it almost never happens. Most mines have very strict rules (the 6 month off site rule to change employers is common) regarding poaching staff, which makes moves like this almost impossible.
I can remember when they first started this rule in the late 90’s in Telfer.
10, The S11 often referred to as a “General Induction” is only required for work on coal mines in QLD
It can’t be used in NSW, where the coal industry requires you to complete their own induction.
They are even trying to sell it to people in Perth as a General Safety Induction!
The lack of media attention allows people selling these products to take advantage of poor mining knowledge about how the industry works.
Allowing people to think they need a S11 for all mining jobs across Australia or that all mining employers will look favourably on people that have completed the S11, for its “safety component” is just a fantasy.
Hardrock employers want people that know how their mine works, that’s how they maintain safety (safety comes from doing the job the right way), and a coal induction from Queensland isn’t going to help with that.
I don’t know of any Hardrock mines that require the S11, only the coal mines in QLD.
The sad part about this is instead of helping you get the job, it just shows the hardrock employers that you don’t understand how their industry works and your resume will get culled in the first round.
11, Yes, a new starter gets paid between $380-$450 a day
Most hardrock underground employers pay between $90K-$110K a year, depending on the company and job. These jobs include Nipper, underground Truck Operator or Diamond Driller Offsider.
The top jobs on the crew pay well over $300K a year and middle tier jobs pay around $200K, this means you end up making great money on all the crew jobs, as you climb the ladder to the top.
12, Most mining jobs have to be filled Australian citizens or permanent resident
The majority (about 2/3) 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.
It’s in the job ads, normally at the bottom, sometimes it’s at the top in big writing too, like Byrnecut do.
It’s only the degree and trade jobs that employers can bring in overseas workers for.
If you have read this information and want to have a crack at getting a job in a hardrock underground job, then the Workready or DIY Intro to Underground Mining packages run by Underground Training have all the information you need to get the employers attention and a job in a hardrock underground mine. It just depends on how much support you want.