Mine Site Living – What to Expect
Most mining jobs require you to live on-site in a mining camp. Depending on the roster, it’s not uncommon to spend as long as four weeks in a row at the mining village. If you’re thinking of getting a job in the mines, you’re probably wondering what it’s like to live on a mine site. This article discusses what to expect from mine site living: the pros and cons, plus how the right roster can bring success.
Mine Site Living – Pros
Mining companies make a huge effort to keep employees comfortable and happy. By providing good living conditions, companies attract more workers and reduce turnover rates. As a result there are some real positives about living in a mining village. These include:
- Sporting Facilities Employees are encouraged to lead an active lifestyle for both fitness and mental health. Most sites provide a fully equipped gymnasium that is free for camp citizens to use at any time of day. Larger mine sites may also boast swimming pools, basketball courts, golf driving ranges, football fields, bowling greens and more.
- Meals Cooked for You There is always a mess hall on site where employees can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. The crossover of shift workers (i.e. staff finishing night shifts as others start their day shifts) means all meals are available at all times of day.
- Cleaning Services Your accommodation (called a “donga”) is cleaned 2-3 times per week while you’re working. When you finish a day’s work, you don’t need to worry about cooking and cleaning – you’re free to relax.
- Pay TV plus Phone/Internet Connection Nearly all camp sites provide Pay TV (such as Foxtel) plus a phone and Internet connection. This enables you to keep in touch with people back home as well as stay entertained during lonely hours.
- Low Cost of Living = Forced Saving Although some mine sites have a “wet mess” (i.e. bar or tavern facilities), there is little opportunity for shopping. Workers earn excellent money working long days on the mine, but can’t waste money on takeaway or dining out. Many people see this “forced saving” as a great advantage in reaching their overall financial goals.
Bear in mind that small mine site may not have all the facilities listed above. Even the smallest of sites, however, will have gymnasium equipment and meals provided.
Mine Site Living – Cons
Mine camp living is not for everyone. The most obvious difficulty is the emotional pressure of being away from friends and family. Here are some more ‘cons’.
- Long Working Days Most workers living on site work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. Working 84 hours a week is exhausting, especially if you’re accustomed to the standard 40 hour working week.
- Heat, Dust and Flies Mines are usually located in remote, hot areas. Dust and flies can become irritating and intense. Summer heat is especially problematic for outdoor workers.
- Camp Food Food is cooked in bulk portions and usually served in a Baine Marie – or steam tables - in the mess hall. No matter how good the head chef, camp food is never quite the same as a home cooked meal.
- Groundhog Day Workers often complain that mine site living is like the movie Groundhog Day, where every day is the same as the last. Most people follow a strict routine. Early morning starts can begin at 4am, followed by long working days and early (7pm) bedtimes. This repetitive lifestyle can be frustrating.
- No Nearby Town The remote nature of most mining camps means there is no nearby town. There is nowhere to travel to if you want to break the repetitive nature of daily mine-site living.
- Strict Alcohol Monitoring Shifts often begin with a safety brief or pre-start meeting, which may include alcohol breath testing. Although there might be a bar or tavern on site, workers must limit their alcohol intake in order to be ‘fit for work’ according to health and safety standards.
Roster for Success
Mine site living is vastly improved by finding the perfect roster. People who enjoy living on the mine can more easily tolerate long rosters such as four weeks on, one week off. If you’re a parent who needs to spend quality time with your children, you might find an 8/8 roster (eight days on, eight days off) is the perfect balance. The industry norm is a two weeks on, one week off roster. Other common rosters are eight days on, six days off and nine days on, five days off.
Aside from your time-on and time-off, you should also consider the day/night shifts you’ll be asked to work. A 4/4 roster might seem good; that is until you realize you’ll be working two days, two nights followed by four days off. Rosters such as this are renowned for disrupting your body clock.
The good news is that mining companies are flexible and will usually offer a roster to suit you – especially if you’re a qualified person with skills in high demand.
Is Mine Site Living for You?
How much you enjoy mine site living will depend on your personality and personal circumstances. A single person is more likely to enjoy living in the mine camp than a married person who will miss their spouse. Parents with children usually find the separation even more traumatic.
Despite this, working on the mines can bring great career satisfaction. In addition, people often report overall lifestyle improvements as a result of outstanding remuneration. If you can strike the right work/life balance with a great salary and good roster, mine site living should be a positive experience.
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