¿What attracts people to the mining industry?
Centuries ago the lure of gold drove people to travel vast distances, often to new countries, in the hope of discovering a fortune.
In Australia, the early prospectors arrived from Europe, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, China and North America in the thousands. Many left families back home, some never returned to their birth country and even fewer struck it lucky. But each of the people who worked the early goldfields — from those that made a meagre living to those who were able to build massive fortunes — was driven by the same thing: hope of making their fortune.
Fast-forward to the current day and the people wanting a start in mining are still motivated and driven by the chance to make money. While the salaries on offer are higher than those in other industries, in reality that is because the hours are longer; mines operate 24/7 and they are mostly located in remote and challenging environments.
I remember having a conversation with a family member several years ago, about salaries in mining and how it was unfair that my income was so much higher. A quick comparison of our rosters was insightful. My “14 days on, seven days off” roster equated to me working 168 hours in a three-week period. She worked 120 hours in the same time frame. Over a year, I worked 2900 or so hours. She worked 40-hour weeks during school terms — or approximately 1600 hours a year. I think I deserved to be paid way more.
There’s a career in mining
Aside from the opportunity to earn good money, a job in the mining industry can also provide a career — it’s really up to you. Many people I know have started out with a two- to five-year plan to work in an operational role but they’re now in a supervisory or management role some 10 or more years later through hard work, additional training and education.
I asked a few of my connections what initially attracted them to mining, and what kept them there for so long. Interestingly, while most said the initial attraction was the money, the reasons for still being in the industry several years later varied considerably.
Here are some of the comments I received, and I hope they help you reconsider whether mining is just a job for a few years or whether you can see a long-term career in the industry.
“I work hard during my four weeks and in my two weeks off, I get to travel with my partner.”
Pit Superintendent — nine years in the industry
“Mining has become a lifestyle for my wife and me. It allows us to live in a great suburb, send our kids to a private school, and has set us up in a way a role in a city wouldn’t.”
Crushing Manager — 14 years in the industry
“I’ve made lifelong friends from working in the mining industry and it is great to be able to spend time with them when we are all on R&R. Many of my friends with regular jobs don’t get the same amount of time off as I do.”
Process Superintendent — 12 years in the industry
“Mining has given me opportunities to develop a career path I never imagined when I left school. I cannot imagine I would have had the time to study and obtain a degree while working full-time on a Monday-to-Friday role. I have achieved a lot professionally and personally on a FIFO roster.”
Occupational Health and Safety Manager — 16 years in the industry
“To begin with, FIFO was tough. I struggled with the hours, being away from home and missed my family and friends, but I had set a plan to pay off my house. Once I had achieved this, I realised I enjoyed the roster and the lifestyle. I am now planning what to do after mining.”
Leading Hand — eight years in the industry
“Working in mining has not only given me the opportunity to work overseas, but has also given me the opportunity to experience living in other countries and learning about different cultures.”
Maintenance Supervisor — six years in mining, eight years elsewhere
As you can see, there are many reasons people stay in mining — from the friends they make to providing a better lifestyle for their family and having a career. There is a lot of information on our members’ pages about the pros and cons of working in mining.