Electricians play a very significant role in the mining industry in Australia. Mining industries rely heavily on process automation to reduce labour costs as it’s not easy to find qualified technicians in remote locations.
Working in the Mining Industry as an Electrician
Mining industries rely heavily on process automation to reduce labour costs as it’s not easy to find qualified technicians in remote locations. If a plant was located in town then rarely would the plant owner hire a full-time Electrician. Because qualified technicians are difficult to find in remote locations, mining industries rely heavily on process automation to reduce labour costs.
To be successful as an electrician in the mining industry, you must first understand what the job entails and what qualifications you must obtain to be competent in this highly competitive field.
What does a mining electrician do?
Mining electricians are responsible for the same activities as maintenance electricians. The fundamental distinction is that mining jobs are generally more dangerous than commercial or household maintenance activities.
Installing, troubleshooting, and maintaining electrical systems and equipment in mines is the responsibility of the mining electrician. Because mining equipment is subject to daily wear and tear, mining electricians are expected to respond quickly to issues. The electrician needs specialised skills to repair breakdowns to ensure that the mining processes run smoothly.
Aside from being physically fit, the mining electrician is also expected to be able to work well under pressure, especially since work can last as long as 12 hours per shift. If you want to be sparky in this field, you should be able to handle working in adverse conditions with other miners and remain focused and alert all the time to handle issues at a moment’s notice.
Duties and Responsibilities of a mining electrician
- Ensure that electrical equipment, systems, and process control are in good working order.
- Ensure that the power in the mines is functional in all areas
- Throughout the engineering phase, assist with start-up and commissioning activities
- Maintain switches, wiring, circuits, lighting and other electrical components and devices used in the mining site
- Carry out technical functions such as high-voltage switching, electrical fitting, and electronics, Instrumentation and field automation
- Monitor safety practices especially those near any electrical outlet and adhere to safety and occupational health regulations
- Plan Electrical shutdowns
- Understand and interpret Electrical system layout and read wiring diagrams
- Maintain the integrity of electrical systems
- Electrical Appliances, tools, and power are tested and tagged for flaws and safety
- Assist in the analysis and troubleshooting of system faults
- Wear safety gear and equipment in compliance with company policies at all times
- Comply with risk assessments before work commencement
- And many more…
How do you qualify as a mining electrician?
All electrical work in Australia requires a valid Electrical licence for that state. To work in the mines as an electrician, you must possess an Unrestricted Electrical Licence duly recognized by the national government. To get this licence, you need to complete a four-year apprenticeship which will be supervised by an experienced electrician. You need to enrol on an Electrotechnology course to learn the theory while the practical knowledge and skills can be achieved through hands-on experience with an Electrician.
You will need to undergo structured training under UEE30820 Certificate III in Electrotechnology to get a good understanding of the foundational knowledge that every electrician should have.
After you have completed your 4-year apprenticeship as an Electrician you will need to obtain further qualifications in Hazardous areas and the Instrumentation field and in many cases, HV switching as well. Gone are the days when there was a big crew of Electricians with the specific demarcation of jobs. It was inefficient and not economical for the Employer to have so many electricians sitting around and waiting for a specific breakdown. Most Electricians these days have to be multi-skilled. If a person has done his apprenticeship in a specific mine for four years, he is already skilled in maintaining that mine; however, if he needs to change jobs, he must demonstrate his ability to look after hazardous areas, instrumentation, and HV switching. If you have the experience you can get your skills recognised by a reputable RTO. This procedure costs money and is time-consuming but way better than going to school for another 4 years.
Although it seems frivolous to get these qualifications when you already have the experience. Most employers will not entertain your application until you have a formal certificate. There are 2 main reasons to get these qualifications. First, the employer gets hundreds of applications for the job and these Certificates help them segregate the candidates. Usually, the person shortlisting the candidates is not a technical person but rather an HR person commonly called the ‘gatekeeper’. The gatekeeper needs to see these qualifications so they can shortlist you. The second reason is that Employers are bound by company policies and insurance policies. It forces them to employ trained personnel. The easiest way to achieve that is to hire professionals rather than train them onsite. This is one of the major reasons for the emergence of private RTOs. Public RTOs like the TAFE could not keep up with the demand of required tradespeople whereas private RTOs that could customise the training to suit the employer’s needs did. The private RTOs today hold a majority share in the Vocational education sector due to the availability of training all year round. Check out my other article on the difference between Private RTO and Public RTO – the good bad and ugly for further information.
Now that you have completed your apprenticeship, first on your list should be the EEHA qualification. The mining industry is set in a hazardous environment, which means that you would require the nationally recognised UEE42620 Certificate IV in Hazardous Areas Electrical. Having this qualification lets employers know that you understand the risks involved in the mines and the explosive nature thereof. You also need vast knowledge of instrumentation automation and process control as an electrician in the mines.
However, not all Electricians require this qualification or knowledge to work in this industry. Lately, it has become the norm for many employers to ask for it. Employers will expect you to have the qualifications UEE40420 Certificate IV in Electrical Instrumentation and/or UEE31220 Certificate III in Instrumentation and Control.
A certain level of upskilling helps you become a preferable candidate in the mining industry. To better your chances as a mining electrician, you could enrol at Ausinet, where gap training is provided to achieve these qualifications.
Major Mining Companies in Australia
There are many mining companies in Australia and a large number of them have offices in Western Australia and the Northern Territory where several important mine sites are situated. Darwin and Perth are known to be gateways for workers who want to get into the industry. Some of the mining companies include:
· South 32
If you are an Instrumentation Electrician, a lot of opportunities will be available to you, especially in the mining industry where dealing with process automation is a daily routine. If you have the right qualifications, motivation and willingness to learn about this industry you will probably make it as a mining Inlec. It is also important to have good references from your previous employment experiences or your trainer. Keep looking on employment websites and ask around. In many cases, word of mouth can help. Apart from the technical knowledge, I hate to say this but more often than not “it’s not what you know but who you know”
Don’t be disheartened and keep at it as eventually, you will get a break. Make sure to have the following tickets ready when the day comes
A Blue Card – (Workplace Health and Safety Induction for a Particular state)
Unrestricted Electrical License
Working at heights
Working in a confined space
Elevated work platform
LVR – Low voltage rescue
CPR – Cardio Pulmonary resuscitation
First Aid rescue – preferred
The courses in blue can be completed at AUSINET or many of the other Public or Private RTOs locally within your state. Whether public or private RTO be careful when selecting your training organisation. There are many good RTOs out there but just as many bad ones. Get a reference from a fellow worker or a past student. Do not just book your course without doing your research. If you do, there is a good chance that you will be throwing your money down the drain although you will end up with a qualification. Don’t be the guy who got his ticket out of the cornflake box. Check out my other article on the “difference between Private RTO and Public RTO – the good bad and ugly” for further information.
Last reviewed date: 03/08/2023