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Mining Jobs in Australia
We can all agree that Australia is big and empty. Unless you know what you're looking for...
The truth is that Australia is very mineral rich. From coal and iron ore to some of the world's most sought-after gems, Australia's mining industry is one of the biggest in the world, which is great news for backpackers on a 417 or 462 visa looking for work.
Where are most mining jobs located?
Australian mining jobs aren't exactly in convenient locations. Most of the jobs are found in regional, hard to access parts of the Australian mainland - places where minerals have been left to slow cook for millions of years, and where the opening of a huge open cut mine won't be met by much, if any, resistance. Mount Isa, Queensland's largest mining town, is a 20 hour drive from the state capital of Brisbane, for example.
With the greatest amount of land at their disposal, it makes sense that Australia's two biggest states, Western Australia and Queensland, are the country's mining powerhouses.
What are FIFO jobs?
If you're looking for a mining job, you've probably heard the term FIFO, which stands for 'fly in, fly out'. Because most Australian mining jobs are seriously remote, it makes sense for mining companies to fly their workers in and have them work non-stop for weeks at a time, before flying them out again for an extended break.
A FIFO worker's schedule will depend on the company and the job. Some FIFO workers will work two weeks on before getting two weeks off, others will have three on and one off, etc.
What mining jobs are available to working holidaymakers?
While many mining jobs require a university-level education, there are a number of entry-level positions open to willing working holidaymakers that require minimal training and expertise. Examples include:
- Labourer: Such a large scale project as a mine needs plenty of hired hands to do simple labouring tasks.
- Truck driver: Ever felt the desire to drive a vehicle as big as a house? Being a driver on a mine site grants you the opportunity!
- Cleaner: Things can get dirty and dusty on a mine site, and someone's got to clean it!
- Admin/ in-office jobs: If you're not a fan of dirt under the nails, there are always a wealth of in-office roles available, including administration, payroll, procurement, reception and scheduling.
What qualifications are needed?
When you combine big machinery with a notable lack of medical facilities, safety becomes all the more important. Mining sites are some of the most red tape filled workplaces in the world, and for good reason.
The 'tickets' - the qualifications and licences - that you'll need will depend on the job that you're going for. As a minimum you'll have to show a white card, the same card necessary to step foot on any construction site in Australia, and a police security clearance.
From there the necessary tickets become job-specific, like a heavy vehicle (sometimes called a 'heavy rigid' or HR) licence for drivers. The necessary tickets should be stated on the job description.
If you get through the first few stages of the interview process, you'll most likely be asked to undergo a pre-employment medical to ensure that you are fit to work in what can often be challenging conditions.
What is the pay like?
In short? Really good.
If you're willing to put up with the less desirable aspects of the job, you can often earn more as an entry-level worker in the mines as you can as a highly trained professional in the city. It's common for a cleaner or labourer to earn $40 an hour - double Australia's world-leading minimum wage. On top of that, many mining jobs, in particular FIFO, will see living expenses like accommodation and food paid for. You also won't be tempted by a trip to the mall or cinema, because there is no mall or cinema.
Pros and cons of mining jobs
So, is a mining job the right choice for you, the working holidaymaker? Let's sum up the pros and cons.
- Great pay
- Counts as specified work for your second and third year visas
- Living costs are often taken care of
- Forced saving, as there's minimal temptation to spend
- Work hard, play hard: extended breaks for FIFO workers
- Away from civilisation (perhaps a pro to some!)
- Limited ways to unwind and relax outside of work hours
- FIFO workers will work for weeks at a time (before getting an extended break)
- Work and live with a small group of people
So while Australian mining jobs are terrific for your bank balance and your visa extension, the more human sides of the job can be a challenge.
The pay and limited amount of jobs can mean it's a competitive space to get work in. But if you can, there's almost no better way for a working holidaymaker to make good, fast money.