Former Fifo flight attendant earns $2,400 a week in the Pilbara mine then travels the world every month

Thousands of unskilled jobs paying up to $120,000 a year are about to become available – but the problem is a high failure rate for people unprepared for this grueling lifestyle.

Jobs in iron ore and gold mines are boosted by high prices and rising production.

Salaries for mining graduates in WA soared 27% in 2021, but now it looks like even unskilled workers can earn six figures thanks to the latest mining boom.

Gold mining is most active in WA, but there are also mines in the New South Wales hinterland and western Queensland. The high price of Australian gold is also stimulating demand for employees.

Thousands of unskilled jobs paying up to $120,000 a year are about to become available – but the problem is a high failure rate for people unprepared for this grueling lifestyle.

Andrew Knight, a trainer at Underground Training, predicts there will be new roles available at 120 WA sites mining everything from gold, zinc, nickel, copper, uranium and lead.

Demand for these minerals is driven by the export of components in phones, batteries and computers.

Newcomers such as truck drivers and unskilled “nippers” or “gofers” (who drive people to a mine site) typically earn between $350 and $550 per day.

“An experienced gripper around Kalgoorlie can earn up to $550 a day,” Mr Knight said.

This represents between $95,000 and $120,000 per year before taxes.

For those interested in careers in the mining sector, it doesn’t take long to gain access to well-paying positions, well beyond most jobs.

Andrew Knight, a trainer at Underground Training, predicts there will be new roles available at 120 WA sites mining everything from gold, zinc, nickel, copper, uranium and lead

Andrew Knight, a trainer at Underground Training, predicts there will be new roles available at 120 WA sites mining everything from gold, zinc, nickel, copper, uranium and lead

Underground mining vehicles cost millions, so damaging one can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Equipment failure can devastate an operation

Underground mining vehicles cost millions, so damaging one can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Equipment failure can devastate an operation

The mining industry pays unskilled workers well as well as skilled workers

The mining industry pays unskilled workers well as well as skilled workers

After about six to 12 months, many people graduate to “service crew” and earn up to $650 a day, which equates to a salary of $154,700.

Mr Knight estimated that around a quarter of the crews are women.

He said newcomers to mining will start out in a driver or gofer role for at least six months to a year, usually working two weeks in a row before having a week off.

Mr Knight points out that 12-hour shifts and working 14 consecutive days are “industry standards” – which may come as a shock to people who are “going green”.

“The failure rate is about three out of five people if they are not trained before they start.”

“If they show up untrained at a mine site, it’s sink or swim. A lot of people are sinking.

Mr Andrews says the hardest thing for beginners – aside from the long hours and physically demanding work – is the pressure.

“For many people, this will be the most time-consuming job they will ever have.

“The mining industry measures downtime in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour,” he said.

The consequences of making mistakes are even worse.

Underground mining vehicles cost millions, so damaging one can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Equipment failure can devastate an operation.

“When a rope broke on a hauling shaft at a large mine in South Australia, they couldn’t haul anything for three months and it cost them $300-400 million,” Mr. Knight.

“If you can’t catch up fast enough, there’s not a lot of advice going on,” he admits.

“You’ll probably get the window seat in the van, which means they’ll give you one last look at the mine as you drive away. It means you got fired.

People are being fired at every mine, every day for not following through, he said.

If you can last a few years, salaries skyrocket – even for people without a degree.

After about two years, fast learners can move into mid-level roles such as boggers (driving underground loaders) and reloading (loading explosives). They pay between $160,000 and $200,000 per year depending on the shifts.

Diamond drillers, who do the exploration drilling for new sites, earn slightly less, but at least $800 a day.

The next level of employment is jumbo operators, who drill holes for explosives and install roof and ground support.

Jumbo operators earn up to $2,000 per day.

Beyond that, experienced miners can study for a shift supervisor ticket and then become foremen.

Mr Knight says Australian mine supervisors are in high demand and can earn up to $40,000 a month at some overseas mines.

Although iron ore has been a big employer, it is understood that internships generally in this sector – which start around $75,000 – may not generate long-term jobs.

As with all mining operations, driving iron ore trucks is one of the main entry-level job options, but iron ore miners will transition to driverless trucks by 2024, this which means that many of these jobs could disappear.

Recent data from BDO Australia’s Remsmart national survey of the natural resources industry in June showed that existing wages had increased by 12-15% for some occupations.

According to BDO, mining graduates have gone from $85,000 to $90,000 to $110,000 a year in recent years.

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