Miners and Drillers

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: 5,001 to 10,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: > $1700 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief Miners perform a range of tasks which include the following; operating high-tech and sophisticated equipment, drilling rigs and blasting rocks, along with loading and transporting coal, ore, mineral, sand and rock.

There are currently around 1,600 miners employed in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the mining industry. Most persons in this occupation are male and most are employed outside the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a slightly younger age profile with only around a third of miners aged 45 years or older.

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Miners operate equipment to excavate, load and transport coal, ore, mineral sand and rock, either underground or in open-cut mines. Underground miners travel down vertical shafts or sloping declines to reach the work face. Open-cut and surface miners extract the mineral ore using mining machines, drilling and blasting methods, ripping (e.g. by bulldozer) or dredging.

Mines are often located in remote areas where miners and plant operators may have to work in dusty, hot and noisy conditions. However, many workers are employed at mine sites on a fly-in, fly-out basis, usually flying from a base location to the mine site, where they work for a number of weeks and then return to the base location. Although they work as part of a team, miners generally work without direct supervision.

Education Requirements

Entry into this occupation is generally through an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Certificate II or higher qualification. Of those employed 27% have a Certificate III or IV and around 63% have no post-school qualifications. It is recommended that you gain the available qualification to get the best possible chance of employment.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Applied Geosciences. Pathways include the Certificate II in Civil Construction, Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure Work Preparation, Certificate II in Surface Extraction Operations and the Certificate III in Mining Operations.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at http://www.skills.sa.gov.au/apprenticeships-traineeships or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

Job prospects for miners vary according to the sector that you work in, and the level of activity in those particular sectors. These can fluctuate over time. For instance, workforce downsizing in iron ore has decreased prospects in that area, while new development activity in nickel means that prospects in that sector are currently above average. Oil and gas continues to grow.In the longer term, job prospects are expected to decline, largely as a result of the continuing mechanisation of this industry.

Nature of the Job

Mineral ores such as gold, aluminium, iron ore and nickel are what miners extract from the ground using specialised mining equipment. Miners work in both underground and open cut mines. Underground mines, up to 1,000 metres deep, have a structure similar to a multi level car park. The first step in underground mine construction involves building tunnels and the various levels of a mine. Using a jumbo (drilling machine), miners drill a series of holes into the rock face. These are loaded with explosives and blasted. Using boggers (scooping equipment), miners scoop up rock fragments from the blast and load them into trucks to be transported out of the mine.

A miner then scales down the rock face, clearing off any loose rock that may fall. To further stabilise the rock face, miners insert rock bolts. They drill holes into tunnel walls, insert metal bolts and fill the holes with cement. These development processes are repeated until tunnelling and the various levels of the mine have been completed and production drilling (to retrieve ore bodies) can commence. Using a long hole rig (drilling machine), miners drill from one level to the next. Blasting takes place and loose ore bearing rock is transferred from a bogger to a truck, which takes it to the surface for processing in a mineral processing plant.

An underground mine is dark and dusty and requires electricity for lighting, air for ventilation and water to reduce the level of dust. Miners install these services progressively during the development stages. In developing open cut mines, miners use bulldozers to remove the fertile top layer of soil, which is stored and later used to help the growth of new plants. Using different methods, including blasting and bulldozing, miners extract ores from the rock. Miners then transport it to be processed.

Typical Physical Working Environment

To work as a miner, you need to be mechanically and technically orientated, as you will be operating and maintaining specialised equipment. You also must be prepared to work away from home, in an isolated environment and for long periods of time (if you live on site). You may work on a fly-in, fly-out basis, involving shorter periods away. Most miners work a 12-hour day.

Typical Occupational Example

Given that the inside of mines tend to be very dark and the nature of the work carried out by miners involves a high level of risk, a miner's work environment can be potentially hazardous. ''Safety has been the biggest issue of the last decade but safety procedures have vastly improved. The living conditions have also improved over the years, there's a social club and even sporting facilities these days on some mines,'' according to local miner Wez. There have also been big changes in Australia's mining industry and mining processes. Industry representatives say that in the last 15-20 years, mining has become highly mechanised.In some situations, miners can now operate drilling equipment and mining vehicles by remote control. Sitting in air conditioned cabins, they view what's happening outside through television monitors. New vehicles are also being fitted with remote safety systems, preventing injuries during cave-ins.

For further information, contact:

Minerals Council of Australia
PO Box 4497 Kingston ACT 2604
Ph: (02) 6233 0600
Fax: (02) 6233 0699
Email: info@minerals.org.au
Website: www.minerals.org.au

The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy Inc
290 Glen Osmond Rd, Fullarton SA 5063
Ph: (08) 8202 9999
Email: education@resourcessa.org.au
Website: www.sacome.org.au

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online