The Mining Beckoning

Everywhere I went, I seemed to bump into someone who was in mining, or is currently in mining or knows someone in mining. Mining is huge in Western Australia. It is after all, the reason that transformed Perth from a sleepy town to ... a less sleepy town. Many have benefitted directly or indirectly from the mining boom, probably including me because my company supplies products to big firms in the mining as well as oil and gas industry.

Today I met Mrs D's sons in the workshop. Who is Mrs D? She is a wild-haired Indonesia woman who barks at us everyday. Initially the boss introduced her as one of the workers in the workshop. Fortunately I was wise enough to notice something was unusual between them early enough on my first day of work when the boss took me out to buy my work clothes and boots. He stopped by the lunch bar to buy a set for Mrs D. Not that it made a difference for me to know she was the boss's wife at the end of the day because I would have treated everyone with the same respect anyway.

Today was the first time I saw Mrs D's sons. They were from her previous marriage. They looked very Indonesian but spoke like locals. I picked up a conversation with the younger chap, Tarrun. He told me he was working Karratha, up in the far north of Perth. I knew he was in some sort of mining related occupation immediately. I asked him how did he start off finding a mining job.

Surprisingly, Tarrun stopped and shared a good 20 minutes with me talking about this. He is working as a labourer in a construction firm building site facilities for the mining giants. He stressed 2 points a few times during our conversation. 1) He is a labourer. 2) He works for a construction and not mining company. He even showed me photographs he took during work and described in detail his roles and responsibilities as well as work routine. When asked how much do companies pay such roles, he replied straightforwardly.

"Ah, for me..."

Wow, he's telling me his salary to a stranger without reservations. I like this guy.

"... sometimes I take home A$2,300. Sometimes on longer hours, about A$2,700," Tarrun said candidly.

My eyes widened in mock shock and I probed on, "After tax?"

"Yes. After tax. That is my take home pay. It is good pay for just a labourer. The benefits are pretty good. I work 3 weeks on site and come back to Perth for one week. I'm off this week, that's why I am here. When I am back here, my company pays us too, but a basic minimum wage," Tarrun went on as-a-matter-of-factly.


"Another thing. When we don't have work in between projects, the company pays us too. But only a number of days per year. I've forgotten how many. But we have annual leave and sick leave and ..... "

My mind trailed off. I didn't need to know the rest. It wasn't something new to me. But each time someone told me, the more real it sound. It was just like before I came to Australia, Jen told me how much a cashier in the supermarket was earning - more than I did in Singapore. It was incredulous but as I opened my mind enough to do my own research and talked to more people, my reality changed.

Back to Tarrun's conversation, the figure that he suggested by his wages per week, not month. We talk wages by the week over here, unlike in Singapore. A$2,300 per week after tax is a very good pay by any standard. Food is provided all day by the company as well as transportation (to fly back to Perth for off days). I had heard of even more highly paid vocations such as  a mining truck, haul pack or crane driver. Grace's boyfriend for example, used to work in the mines too.

Tarrun stressed that he works for a construction company and soon I asked him to explain what was the differences. He simply said, construction teams build whatever the mining giants need and leave the site after handing over. I understood instantly. Construction, production, maintenance. It's the same procedure. I realised where I stood and what I wanted to do if I were to enter this industry. I would go back to construction, probably as a labourer instead of a project manager. I've come to terms that I don't really make a good project manager. That was probably the reason why my career flopped in Singapore.

During dinner I saw Denise sending a picture via the Singaperth whatsapp groupchat. It was about salaries in mining career. I didn't take a closer look as I didn't need to know the exact amount. I knew it was enough for us, and probably anyone else, to live and maybe even afford to retire when we are older.

With the loads of helpful information Tarrun wrote down painstakingly for me, I might have to keep his notes deep in the pockets until our conditions allow me to look north. I couldn't leave Jen and the baby for such long periods unless there are support in my absence. That is my only concern. Working in harsh conditions in mining sites isn't a problem for me. I know that I can take it.


  1. With the FIFO job, you can easily get your much desired HILUX sooner. And perhaps, a Hummer or a Prado (less flashy) for Jen :)

  2. Being in the Oil & Gas industry has given me some insights: 1. Its not for everyone, as there a long stretches away from family 2. Many work on a contract basis (may not such a negative point seeing that steady jobs are history anyway). 3. You will need to go where the work is. Maybe in the north-west or elsewhere even further away.

  3. Hi all.

    Wifey has a ex colleague who is also into mining, and earns big $$$. However, from him first hand, the jobs are indeed not for everyone. Not everyone has a 3 week on, 1 week off roster, or a 4 days on, 3 day off roster. He is in fact got a 28 day(!!!) on , 1 week off roster.

    I think most crucially, is that mining is rarely a long term career. Most people are in it for a few years, then it takes its toll and people leave the industry. Drugs and alcohol abuse are rife too. Everyone I know who works fly in fly out, are either:

    1) Single, middle aged or older men
    2) Single, unmarried women
    3) Single, young men

    You get my drift.

  4. Think carefully before you step into the mining career. You need to make big sacrifices to work at this kind of job. Staying away from home 3 weeks at a time and home for one week forces you to miss out on important events in your life e.g. birthdays, kids growing up, relationships with spouse, etc.

    And I understand that public holidays are not considered by some companies as day off from work. You just simply work through the holidays. Consider the trade-offs of being rich in tangible things like money, and poor in other intangible things.

  5. Good comments above! So refreshing to hear from those who knows what goes behind the high paying mining jobs.
    I have met Singaporeans who said they want to go into mining no matter what cos of the money, which is a fair comment but the grass is not greener.

  6. Nobody from Sydney or Melbourne want to move to the west to work in the mines and projects that pay. Grab what you can, if you can, just to cash out.

    If reason won't prevail, try the figures you have above, per fortnight, after tax. It never gets better, so when there's a silver platter, fools follow the apethetic path.

    I move across countries with or without my wife and kids. Absorb sacrifice as change and nay the naysayers.

  7. Mining giants have employees and contractors in their mines. My personal opinion is you don't know Australia until you have work in one of those. I just finished with a 6 weeks stini relieving a colleague who was on holiday. It is not always in the mine. I work 2 weeks in their corporate office and 10 days in the mine processing plant. My first mine assignment was7 years ago inNT. There is an aborigine settlement next to the rubbish dump.