Frequently Asked Questions - Jobs and education

Is mining a safe profession?

Safety is the number one priority for the minerals industry.

Australia is an international leader in mine safety research and technologies, leading the way with virtual training facilities and mining software. Safety and health are prioritised in all operations.

Ventilation, high-tech monitoring, protective clothing, training, certificates of competency, supervision and daily safety briefings are integral to daily mining operations.

There has been a big drop in the number of injuries recorded over the past decade.

This improvement is partly due to better precautions and training but also because, in a modern mine, fewer employees spend most of their time underground.

Isn’t it true that mining is only done in remote locations?

Mining occurs in many parts of Australia. Some mines are close to cities and regional centres while others are in remote locations.

Many workers choose the lifestyle advantages of working remotely through fly in fly out (FIFO) or drive in drive out (DIDO) in order to get up to nine consecutive days off back home with family and friends.

Conditions are also good on the job. FIFO workers have all their food and accommodation taken care of on site, along with recreational facilities, like pools and gyms and social activities to create a community atmosphere.

If FIFO isn’t for you, the increase in “digital mining” methods such as real-time data capture, autonomous vehicles and automation means that more mine workers can work closer to their home town.

Aren’t most mining jobs unskilled?

The workforce covers a range of scientific field, professional and trade occupations and the More to Mining Careers Guide shows the diverse skills, qualifications and experience that the industry needs.

Two thirds of the mining workforce has a Certificate III or higher, 26 per cent of the mining workforce holds a university degree and more than four per cent of the workforce are currently apprentices and trainees.  It’s a highly skilled workforce which increasingly needs new skills in data analytics, mathematics and even gaming.

The resources sector is the largest total employer of mining engineers, geologists and geophysicists, industrial, mechanical and production engineers, production managers, metallurgists and physicists, and the third-biggest employer of environmental scientists, employing more than 9428 directly and indirectly.

Why is the minerals industry so male-dominated?

While women currently make up just 16.1% of the mining workforce, the industry is working hard to diversify its workforce.

For example, BHP is aiming for gender equality across its global workforce by 2025 and has started at the top. Five of its 11 senior executive roles are held by women.

Gold producer St Barbara is also working towards gender equality by 2030 and has closed the pay gap, providing flexible work conditions to recruit and retain female staff.

There are a lot more women working across all fields than in the past. Now there are no barriers.

Will there be fewer mining jobs in the future because of automation?

The adoption of technology including automation and robotics is changing the way certain jobs are being done and creating new roles.

Most jobs will be enhanced because of things like automation and robotics. This includes improved safety for workers, simpler ways of doing things and innovation to improve quality.    

Where automation and other technology results in jobs being lost, companies work to retrain affected employees for other roles.

What qualifications do I need to work in mining?

The qualifications you need depend on the role you want.

The MCA’s More to Mining Careers Guide includes information on the qualifications you need for different roles and how you can get them.

In addition to qualifications and depending on the company and location where you work, you may also need specific vehicle licences, security and medical clearances. 

Does mining offer long-term career opportunities?

Yes. The minerals industry offers many interesting and rewarding long-term career opportunities.

Almost all jobs in mining (95 per cent) are full-time roles. The roles in mining are diverse and there are opportunities to upskill and transition to new roles.

As innovations like automation and robotics influence some changes in operations, new roles will be developed.

The More to Mining Careers Guide has lots of examples of the different long-term career opportunities offered by Australia’s world-leading minerals industry.

Isn’t the mining boom over?

Reports claiming the mining boom is over have misled some Australians about what is really happening in the industry.

The minerals industry has undergone a period of significant expansion in the last decade.

A period of massive investment supported many construction jobs in the industry as new mines, processing plants and infrastructure were built.

Now that these projects have been built, Australia is producing new record volumes of iron ore, coal, bauxite, gold and lithium.

This production phase of the boom will last for a much longer period as mines typically take a few years to build but can run for well over 20 years.

These operating mines are offering many new positions in the industry. More than 17,000 new jobs in the resources sector have been created since 2016.

Most of the things we use in daily life are made from mined materials. With global population growth and rapidly escalating demand for energy and infrastructure we are using more minerals and metals than ever.

So you can expect the appetite for our world-class Australian resources to remain strong.

Are mining workers paid well?

Yes. Mining jobs are the highest paid jobs in Australia with average weekly earnings of $2,721 per week in 2018 which is 64 per cent higher than Australian average weekly earnings.

With world-class educational options available for students, why do you think Australia is experiencing a decline in mining-related enrolments?

Australian mining companies invest heavily in training and certification offering frequent opportunities to upskill, on and off site.  The industry has one of the youngest and most highly skilled workforces in Australia.

However, there is an ongoing need to engage young Australians as they are choosing their future careers – and encourage them to look at the exciting opportunities that mining offers. .

We need to reach out and increase the level of awareness about the new careers that are on offer in mining resulting from technological change – for both the development of the next generation of miners as well as re-skilling our current workforce into the jobs of the future.

To meet this challenge, the Australian minerals industry spends more on training per employee than most industry sectors (5.5 per cent of payroll), including more than $50 million of direct investment in higher education over the past decade.

What can the industry and educational institutions do to help attract more young people?

Australia’s minerals industry has one of the youngest and most highly skilled workforces in Australia.

The MCA assists vocational and higher educational institutions to collectively showcase the diverse careers on offer in the resources sector including mining engineering, data science, environmental science and accounting.

We need to continually invest in apprentices, graduates, interns and cadets, to encourage them to not only commence employment in our industry but to enjoy a life-long career.  A career might not be with just one company or in just one skill, but one that is adaptable and embraces the learning approach that underpins our industry’s future.

We also need to prioritise investment in the development of new courses in those areas of STEM that we have traditionally left for others to do.  Future university degrees will need to have a mix of the latest scientific, technical and trade skills along with interpersonal skills including collaboration, team building, communication and creativity.

Why is it crucial to ensure mining education and training is agile and innovative?

Technology is changing rapidly, so the development, nurturing and sustaining of our people has to change.

This year, MCA released a study by EY, which provides a comprehensive examination of future skills and training and technology trends in the Australian minerals industry.

The key finding by EY is that 77 per cent of jobs in Australian mining will be enhanced or redesigned due to technology within the next five years.

Workers will need to share and communicate, design and collaborate, and operate in autonomous teams. These so-called ‘soft skills’ are becoming more important in the workplace.

 EY identified the gains are potentially significant: overall productivity could increase by as much as 23 per cent in Australia by 2030 through the combination of up to $35 billion of investment and, most importantly, a co-investment of up to $13 billion in education and skills development.

How have mining-related courses adapted over the past decade to manage the industry’s needs?

Technology adoption through robotics and artificial intelligence to increase productivity in the industry has become a significant feature the Australian mining sector.

The MCA has created the Minerals Industry National Associate Degree (MINAD) which recognises the need for para-professional qualifications allowing workers wanting to upskill and take on new opportunities with their employer. 

Mining is leading by example through collaborations like Rio Tinto’s $2 million investment with South Metropolitan TAFE and the Western Australian Government to deliver high-tech courses in automation for the first time in Australia.  These are nationally recognised qualifications and the first to provide pathways to emerging jobs in the area of automation.

What should prospective students be made aware of prior to entering the industry?

Australian mining provides the opportunity for students to build a long and exciting careers in the resources sector – with 240,000 people employed in highly paid, highly skilled jobs.

 The resources sector is the largest total employer of mining engineers, geologists, industrial, mechanical and production engineers.  Mining is also the third-biggest employer of environmental scientists in Australia. 

Average earnings in the resources sector stand at around $140,000 a year, more than 64 per cent higher than the average for all industries in Australia.

With a production boom now underway to meet growing global demand for energy and infrastructure students can expect the appetite for our world-class Australian resources to remain strong.  Job opportunities are also expanding, with more than 17,000 new roles in mining, resources and energy created since 2018.

Why is it crucial for mine companies operating in Australia to up-skill their current workforce?

Our people are our industry’s most important asset.

Within five years, 77 per cent of jobs in Australian mining will be different thanks to technology – and people who make the most of it. 

Across the mining process – from exploration through to operations, processing, transport and trading, technology is transforming the way we mine. 

In mining, technology means safer and more productive jobs. 

Most jobs in mining will be enhanced by technological innovation.  Surveyors, field geologists and drill operators will still be in demand, but with these jobs revolutionised by artificial intelligence, drones, driverless vehicles and remote-controlled systems

Are there any aspects of the mining industry that you don’t think will be impacted by technological innovations?

Australia’s minerals industry is changing with rates of technology adoption across the sector reshaping the skills required by the current and future workforce.

EY’s report identifies 77 per cent of jobs in Australian mining will be enhanced or redesigned due to technology within the next five years. 

Traditional jobs are also increasingly being augmented with new technology – for example, a shot-firer working on a drilling team will have the opportunity in Australia’s future minerals workforce to use drone technology to monitor automated rigs. Mining engineers are already upskilling to include areas such as change management and communication.

The composition of the current and future minerals workforce will continue to evolve with the increasing need for technical skills in data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence.