What Is a Miner? (And Other FAQs About a Mining Career)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a miner can be a lucrative and rewarding career for physically fit people who enjoy practical, hands-on tasks. The mining industry is a large sector, providing opportunities for mining a range of precious materials including iron ore, coal, aluminium, nickel, gold and natural gas. Understanding what miners are and what they do can help you decide if this career path suits you. In this article, we answer common questions about the mining profession, including ‘What is a miner?'

What is a miner?

The answer to the question, 'What is a miner?' is they're a professional who operates machinery and equipment at underground and open-cut mines. Initially, the term described people who extracted mineral resources from mines. Today a miner is anyone using mining machines, including people building and developing mines and loading and transporting minerals.

Related: How to Get a Mining Job (With Salary and Requirements)

What is the role of a miner?

It is a miner's role to safely and efficiently operate machinery or equipment on a mining site. They work as part of a team during mineral extraction and transport. The tasks miners perform vary depending on mine and its resources. Miners also specialise in operating different types of equipment. Here are some of the common tasks that miners perform:

  • inspecting mining machinery and performing basic maintenance and repairs

  • inspecting mine sites and reporting potential safety hazards

  • removing resources from mines using excavators, drills and blasting tools

  • loading mining resources onto trucks

  • building new mine shafts and tunnels using bulldozers

  • developing existing mine shafts and tunnels with drives, air vents, crib rooms and rises

  • enhancing mines by installing electrical cables, lights and pump services

  • operating pumps to expel water, air and mud from mines

  • identifying and reporting potential mining safety hazards

What are the skills of a miner?

Miners use their technical skills to perform tasks on a mining site. Soft skills help them work with the other members of their mining teams. Here are some of the common skills that mining companies look for in miners:

Mining and mechanical understanding

Understanding mining and mechanical principles help miners use machinery to perform their mining tasks. When machinery needs minor maintenance and repairs, their technical skills also help them perform these duties and reduce onsite delays. Good technical skills help miners quickly understand and apply what they learn in training sessions.

Problem-solving and decision-making

Strong problem-solving skills help miners identify potential hazards and issues and plan how to fix them. Their decision-making skills help them efficiently decide on the best solutions. Miners who take decisive action after making logical conclusions may keep themselves and others safe and minimise delivery delays.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Physical fitness

Being a miner requires good physical fitness and endurance. Miners often work in small and confined spaces, so being able to contort your body and hold it into unnatural positions helps. Some heavy equipment and machinery require good physical strength. Wearing heavy protective hats and boots can also be physically taxing. Good manual dexterity and steady hands help miners perform delicate extractions.

How to become a miner

Requirements for miners vary depending on the type of mine they want to work in. Miners pursuing senior roles, such as mine manager, also have different requirements than supervised miners.

1. Pursue an education

Miners pursue vocational qualifications after leaving high school. Some miners leave school at year 10, then continue their study at TAFE or a registered training organisation. Others complete their studies to year 12. This is a popular choice for people who can start a school-based mining apprenticeship program in year 11 or aspire to a management role. Year 10 leavers can complete a Certificate II, III or IV. A year 12 education is a prerequisite for a diploma. Some common vocational qualifications for miners include:

  • Certificate III in Surface Extraction Operations

  • Certificate IV in Surface Coal Mining (Open Cut Examiner)

  • Certificate II in Underground Coal Mining

  • Certificate III in Underground Metalliferous Mining

  • Diploma of Surface Operations Management

  • Diploma of Underground Coal Mining Management

  • Advanced Diploma of Underground Coal Mining Management

Related: Vocational Training: Definition and Different Types

2. Complete training

Many miners receive their first training as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship program. Mining apprentices and trainees perform basic site duties supervised by qualified miners while they study for vocational qualifications. They receive more responsibility as their apprenticeship or traineeship progresses. The most successful apprentices and trainees may earn full-time contracts once they earn their qualifications.

Most mining companies also give their new miners on-the-job training. This training helps miners understand their duties and the mine's procedures and equipment. Even experienced miners benefit from this training as every mine is slightly different.

3. Complete certifications

Most mining companies ask miners for security and medical certificates. A National Police Certificate is the most common security certificate mining companies require. Some companies may also require state- or territory-based security checks. Companies request these checks so they know their new employees have clean criminal records and good standing in their communities.

Medical certificates ensure miners can physically perform their duties. A pre-employment medical test assesses the lifestyle, medical history and current health of miners. Doctors test lung function, hearing, fitness and mobility during this screening. A pre-employment Drug & Alcohol Screen within 14 days of arriving on site is also typically required for this role.

5. Earn licences

Most mining jobs require miners to hold a current full driver's licence and HR-X licence for driving trucks. Employers can feel confident miners with these licences can safely operate company vehicles. Mining companies may teach trainees or apprentices how to drive their trucks so they can secure their HR-X licence.

Is being a miner a good career?

Being a miner is a good career choice for the following reasons:

Fly-in fly-out (FIFO) lifestyle

Many people enjoy the FIFO lifestyle miners usually have. Miners usually have around a week at home between mining engagements. Having more time than the average two-day weekend helps miners catch up on sleep, family commitments and social time. FIFO employees can also keep their home life and professional life completely separate, which aids recovery.

Excellent on-site conditions

Mining sites are like luxury villages for miners. While they do their own laundry, others cook and clean for them. As miners are away from loved ones for weeks at a time, they often build strong connections with their colleagues who may feel like family. Most mining sites have a wide range of facilities, such as shops and gyms, to entertain miners once they finish their shifts.

Satisfying work

As mining is physical, practical work, many people find it satisfying. Miners can see what they achieved each day on site. As the work is physically demanding, they can also feel the toll it takes on their bodies. As with exercise, the physical mining tasks trigger the release of feel-good endorphins in the body.

Excellent salaries

The national average salary of a miner is $100,292 per year. This is above the national average salary of $90,329.20 per year. The yearly salary of miners is especially impressive as people with vocational qualifications usually have lower salaries than people with university degrees. FIFO miners also have meals catered for them and board provided, so they may spend less than they would living at home.

Related: Top 25 Highest Paid Jobs

Strong projected growth

The Australian Government groups miners with drillers and shot firers. It predicted strong growth for people with these occupations. In 2020, there were 59,400 of these mining professionals around the country. By 2025, there is likely to be 64,500 miners, drillers and shot firers in the country. That means qualified miners are likely to find securing work relatively easy. Jobs are especially plentiful in Queensland and Western Australia which have the country's largest share of miners.

How can miners advance in their careers?

Many miners enjoy mining so much that it becomes their lifelong career. Others aspire to managerial positions, such as mine manager. Completing a mine management diploma can help miners secure a supervisory role. Miners may also receive promotions after spending several years in the industry. Showing leadership by training and mentoring junior miners can show mining companies that a miner is ready for a management role.

Miners who network with other mining professionals may also find advancing in their careers easier. FIFO jobs encourage networking, as miners can talk to people with other onsite roles during meals and at the gym. Miners may ask their connections how they got their positions and follow their career paths.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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