Case Study: Argyle Diamond Mine mining apprenticeships

Argyle Diamond Mine

Recently we had the good fortune to spend the afternoon at the Argyle Diamond Mine. Of course we took the opportunity to ask lots of questions from an employee who has been associated with the mine for more than 25 years, here’s some of what we found out.

About Argyle Diamond Mine

Run by Australian mining company Rio Tinto, the Argyle Diamond Mine is located in the remote East Kimberly region of northern Western Australia. Originally an open cut mine, Argyle has transitioned into a fully operational underground mine.

Beginning more than 25 years ago, the Argyle Diamond mine is the largest diamond producer in the world by volume. The mine is expected to remain open until at least 2020, producing 20 million carats of diamond per year.

On any given shift there are hundreds of staff on site at the mine including employees, contractors and apprentices. The Argyle Diamond Mine is also an equal opportunity and female friendly workplace, with 40% of the current workforce made up of females.

Having worked in coal mines before (both underground and open cut), for me diamond mining has more appeal.

The general conditions were fairly similar to personal experiences in Mudgee (NSW) and Moranbah (Queensland), where safety is always paramount. Argyle is no exception, the safety regimes followed are world leading, ensuring minimal accidents and injuries on site.

Salary and Work Schedule

The minimum starting salary at the Argyle Diamond Mine is $80,000 a year. Employees also receive a range of benefits including study assistance, insurance, medical assistance, relocation assistance and even discounted diamonds!

Employees of the mine work on two week rotations, with two weeks spent at the mine followed by two weeks off. Shifts while working are for 12 hours, with a people transporter taking workers down into the mine for each shift.

The Argyle Diamond Mine gives employment preference to locals of the East Kimberley, however fly in, fly out (FIFO) is available from both Perth and Darwin.

On Site Accommodation & Facilities

The Argyle Diamond Mine provides accommodation at two sites for employees while working on site. Employees have their own resort style quarters, with the option of double accommodation for couples. Some rooms include a kitchenette and en-suite bathroom, while all room include air-conditioning, linen and television.

Each site provides laundry and dining facilities for employees at no cost, as well as a range of recreational and social facilities. At each site you will find a bar, deli, swimming pool, tennis, squash and basketball courts, table tennis tables, pool tables and gyms.

There are also a range of trails in and around the camp which can also be used for walking, jogging and riding. The Argyle Diamond Mine also has an active social club which organises regular live music, barbecues and trivia nights for employees.

The accommodation sites at the Argyle Diamond Mine are professionally cleaned, while catering provided provided by Spotlight is of a high quality. Both sites are also “dry”, meaning that no alcohol can be consumed on site.

Mature Aged Apprenticeships at Argyle Diamond Mine

The Argyle Diamond Mine offers both scholarships and mature aged apprenticeships. Currently there are two mature aged apprentices working at the mine, however this is expected to increase. The Argyle Diamond Mine and Rio Tinto also offer extensive training and study opportunities for employees to improve their skill set and progress in their careers.

Joining the Mining Industry

If you are a mature aged job seeker and are looking for a career change, a way to develop new skills, or a new and exciting adventure consider the range of opportunities available in the mining industry.

Having personally enjoyed two stints previously in the mining industry, the people were friendly, open, fun and welcoming.

One of the ladies we spoke to even met her husband at the mine! They roster on together, and make use of the accommodation for couples (no children), and then have 2 weeks off together. Sound like a good life to you?

If you find yourself at a loss as to what to do next from a career perspective and especially if you are in the mature-age bracket, consider the mining industry. Not only does the mining industry provide a range of benefits other employers cannot match, but you will make new friends and develop a strong foundation both financially and for your career.


What are the Alternatives to an Apprenticeship?

A lot of people whether they are just out of school or considering a mature aged apprenticeship, see becoming an apprentice or completing a traineeship as the only option when wanting to enter the mining industry.

It is seen as a way to set the platform for a long-term mining career and the only way to get the experience that almost all mining jobs seem to require.

Is it Your Only Option?

Searching for a job (especially unskilled) in the industry can be extremely disheartening, so this kind of thinking does hold some merit – but are there any other options?

Before you make the decision to find a mining apprenticeship, here are a few other mining industry entry points you may wish to consider.

Entry Level Positions

These are the jobs that everyone seems to be looking for, and while you will hear a lot of people complaining about it being impossible to actually get one, there are still a lot of ‘green’ applicants getting jobs.

However, to get these positions (usually labourers, trade assistants and warehouse workers) you have to be really persistent, go the extra mile in contacting companies and in a lot of cases you have to personally move out to one of the mining communities.

Service Based Jobs

Probably not the type of jobs you are looking for, but there are a lot of jobs being created to service all the workers at mine camps. These are usually positions such as cleaners, cooks and kitchen hands, and you usually stay on site an there is the opportunity for a FIFO position.

Graduate Jobs

If you are looking for a long-term career and completed your HSC, you may wish to look into completing a university degree in a field that is sought after in the resource industry. Degrees in geology and (mine related) engineering can provide both exciting and financially lucrative opportunities – and a lot of the larger mining companies offer graduate programs for people about to complete their final year or those who have just finished their university degree. These graduate opportunities are usually offered on a yearly basis.

Still Prefer an Apprenticeship?

Now that you know you options, if you still think an apprenticeship is the best path for you to follow, then here are a few tips that might help you out.

  • Find Out Companies That Have Apprenticeship Programs
    Just like the graduate programs for university graduates, a lot of the major mining companies also have apprenticeship programs that they take expressions of interest for on a yearly basis.This usually happens around the middle of the year (for the following year), and if it is currently a different time of year, then do a search of companies that usually offer these programs and save them to check back on later.
  • Apply To Them Early
    Bookmark the websites, or save them all to a file on your computer. Check back on them regularly and when they start to take expressions of interest, apply early. They will most likely get a lot of interest and may close the offer early – so this ensures you at least get considered.
  • Keep an Eye on The Job Sites
    Smaller companies that service the large miners can be a great source of apprenticeships. Instead of listing opportunities on their websites, these companies will most likely either use a registered recruitment and training company or list the jobs themselves – either way you will usually find these apprenticeships on the major job websites.

1st Year Mining Apprenticeships

The mining industry is one of the highest-paying industries today. The employees and staff are getting more than what other industries could offer. Mining companies offer not only high compensations, but also lots of benefits, as well. Aside from these, mining employees are also provided with free board and lodging, high-class amenities, and even free travel expenses for the Fly In, Fly Out positions.

On the other hand, although it is possible to enter the mining industry without any experience, those who have finished their apprenticeships have greater edge. The employment rate in mining industry in Australia has more than doubled its number from 30,00 jobs to 75,000 jobs in 2009. Most of them are professionals and skilled workers.

Getting a mining apprenticeship certificate is probably the best way to get a good position in the industry. Apprenticeship is a good start for many inexperienced or unskilled workers and those who have been out of school for a while may wish to consider a mature aged apprenticeship. The mining industry is divided into different sections: first, the exploration; then the mining and quarrying, and after that, processing follows. Within these sections or processes, a mining company will need human resource to employ all of these.

Primary Job Brackets in the Mining Industry

Job positions for professionals or university-educated. Absolute expertise is needed in some positions, such as mining engineers, geologists and mine managers.

Skilled work. Positions that can be offered to skilled workers include drillers, welders, mechanics, technicians, and boiler makers.

Ticket jobs. Typically temporary in nature, ticket jobs do not require workers to have a lot of experience, but they must be well-knowledgeable in machine operation and related mining work.

How Long Will a Mining Apprenticeship Take?

In general, apprenticeship programs in the mining industry last for 36 to 48 months. The Traineeship, on the other hand, lasts for no more than 24 months. The span of apprenticeship usually depends on the position you are in and the level of expertise you have.

What to Expect During the Apprenticeship Program

All mining apprenticeship programs have more or less the same objective: to train workers who are interested in working at the mines and prevent worker shortages. Technically, an apprenticeship program is held by a college or university in cooperation with a mining company. During the first year, you will be able to learn the basics in the field. At times, you will have to attend lectures for mining technicalities and other subjects covered.

1st year mining apprenticeship programs for mining industry may cover a number of different trainings. Among the usual trainings included are welding, heavy equipment mechanics, electrical trades, millwright trades and machinists. Typically, the college will help you secure an apprenticeship position, sponsor your training and supervise your progress. Nevertheless, the mining company where you take your apprenticeships will also be of your assistance.

Like other job positions in the mining industry, apprentices’ wages are based on some factors. Education, training, competency, experience, and age are the main factors considered when paying an apprentice. Although the pay is not as impressive compared to permanent positions, the apprentices usually end up with high-paying jobs once they finished the program.

Rio Tinto Traineeships

Rio Tinto is today’s world’s leading supplier of iron ore pellets, iron ore and iron ore concentrates, as well as a top producer of high quality pig iron. The company is not only involved in the mining process of extracting the iron ore from the Earth’s surface, but they are also involved in sourcing and processing the iron ore in order to supply their products to today’s global steel market. Working at Rio Tinto can definitely be a long lasting career as their business has a long-life, large and low cost operations and they aim to deliver high quality products without compromising the safety and health of their employees.

A Short Introduction on Rio Tinto

Iron ore is one of the most basic commodities and since many industries make use of steel, it is one of the most used metals around the globe. From bridges to ships, skyscrapers, railways, cars, to even paper clips, iron is definitely one of the major contributing factors to our developing modern world.

Since this is the case, Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore group in Australia, has committed itself in offering traineeships and apprenticeship programs for future employment. The company’s current operations team comprises of not only regular employees, but a generous number of trainees and apprentices as well.

The traineeship program of Rio Tinto includes metal fabrication, mechanical fitting, automotive, electrical, information technology, drafting, and business administration, to name a few. If you are considering applying for the program, make sure that you have the motivation, enthusiasm and you are able to demonstrate interest in your chosen field, for you to have a chance of being accepted. Another requirement of the company are passing grades in secondary education, as well as fitness requirements and check-ups proving that you are fit to work on a mine site.

Although the requirements may vary from one country to the other, as Rio Tinto is a global company, applicants will increase their chances of being accepted if they are able to show their devotion in their chosen field. Since mining apprenticeships and traineeships are usually advertised in newspapers and internally on a regular basis, being updated will no longer be a problem.

How About Rio Tinto Traineeships?

Aside from a focused apprentice training program, Rio Tinto also committed itself in traineeships, in order to provide a skilled workforce for the industry in the future. They even encourage receiving applications from the indigenous members of the community, so that they too may be trained to work in the mines.

Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Operations provide vast opportunities for their trainees, especially when it comes to exposure on the kinds of jobs they will be facing in the near future, as well as developing skills for easier adjustment from one department to the other.

So as long as you have an interest in pursuing a career at the mines, and you are enthusiastic and motivated enough to push yourself in succeeding, then you may want to consider applying for Rio Tinto traineeships.

Finding Apprenticeships In The Mines

For some people getting a job in the Australian mines can seem rather easy, almost like they just walk into it with no real effort. However, for most people who have no experiences working in such an  environment, it can be a real struggle. If you are serious about a medium to long term career in the industry, the good news is that there are mining apprenticeship and traineeship programs offered by most mining companies.

This can be a great way of learning the basics, getting first hand experience on what it is like to work in the mines, as well as getting your foot inside the mining industry. While traineeship programs usually last six to twelve months, apprenticeships in the mines can last as long as two to four years to be completed.

If you want to be considered for an apprenticeship program, you must show your motivation, enthusiasm and interest in your chosen field, as well as present passing grades in secondary education and meet their physical fitness requirements. While detailed requirements may vary from one company to the other, what were stated above are the main key points that you should always keep in mind.

An apprenticeship in the mines you can jump start your career in the industry, as well as give you 2-4 solid years of work. Obviously the salary will be lower at the start, but you will learn that chances for a promotion and increase in the salary will be better as you work longer in the mines. And since apprenticeships are found in most areas of mining employment, you will find that there is most likely an apprenticeship in the field that you are looking to pursue.

How To Get Apprenticeships In The Mines

There are basically four ways of finding and getting in an apprenticeship program in the mining industry, and each one is summarized below:

Know Someone Personally

If you know someone who is working in the mines, you can use it to your advantage since having connections can definitely help you look for jobs and programs offered by mining companies. Since working in the mines can sometimes be comparable to a boy’s club, making the most out of your connections can go a long way.

Search Jobs Websites & Local Newspapers

There are many websites offering job listings and openings of jobs in the mining industry. So if you are interested in getting accepted in an apprenticeship program, make sure that you check out these websites on a regular basis.

Mining Recruitment Companies

If you think you will be needing help in applying for an apprenticeship program, you may want to strongly consider getting help from mining recruitment agencies, since they have all the connections in different mining sectors, as well as focus on hiring skilled laborers for the mines.

Contact Mining Companies Directly

Aside from the three options mentioned above, the last method of getting an apprenticeship involves directly contacting the mining company of your choice. Since most companies nowadays have their own websites, you can check out their employment section and see if there are openings and apprenticeship programs available.

This can be a good option if you are looking to apply for a mature aged apprenticeship because there is less likelihood of you getting lost in a sea of younger applicants.

Finding apprenticeships in the mines can sometimes feel like a never ending battle but if you are committed to getting an apprenticeship, have a solid resume and make use of as many of the 4 strategies above, you will give yourself the best opportunity.

Mature Aged Apprenticeships

The Australian mining industry has boomed despite the recent economic recession, due to the increase in demand for valuable metals. The mining sector basically, includes businesses that extract naturally occurring minerals such as ores and coals; liquid minerals including crude petroleum; and gases such as methane and natural gas. The mining term is used in the broadest sense to pertain to open cut and underground mining, quarrying, recovery from tailings and ore dumps, as well as different beneficiation processes, that are all done at the mine site or as parts of various mining activities.

The growth of the mining sector only means an increase in the labor and workforce needed by the industry. Since there is a shortage in the number of skilled workers fit for the jobs at the mines, a lot of companies are more than willing to offer apprenticeships for people of all ages. There are even numerous mature aged apprenticeships, to give people who are 30 years and over to have a career change if they want to.

As of 2006, over 33 percent of the total number of apprentices in Australia were aged 19, while 27 percent were people of ages 20 to 24. Mature apprentices on the other hand, comprised of 12 percent of people of ages 30 to 39, and 5.8 percent were 40 and over. There are a number of factors driving older people into undertaking apprenticeships programs, and this includes the shortage in the number of skilled workers in the mining industry.

Companies also take into consideration the advantage of having a mix of both old and young people in the workplace. There is also a high dropout among young apprentices in their first two years in the program, which makes companies prefer mature aged apprentices more.

Companies Offering Mature Aged Apprenticeships

Two of the mining companies that strongly encourage mining apprentices to enroll to their programs are Byrnecut and Barminco. They offer equal opportunities in the mining industry, both to young and mature aged workers.

The two companies focus on providing valuable hands on experience to their apprentices together with mining professionals, so that the former will have an idea of what to experience at the mines and how to deal with different problems and issues. Together with the on the job training experience, apprentices will be able to develop underpinning skills and knowledge that are required for conducting overhaul, repair, service, and even fault finding in a specific area.

Plant mechanics, boilermaker and fabrication, auto electricians and light vehicle mechanics are just some of the mining apprenticeship programs offered by the two mining companies. As they recognize each person’s natural ability plus their knowledge and experience in their previous career, the companies aim in developing their workforce for more efficient and economically viable mining processes.

Both young and mature aged apprentices that excel in the program have the option of fast-tracking their apprenticeship time to get a competitive job in the mining sector.

Mature aged apprenticeships are highly encouraged nowadays, especially in Australia’s mining industry, because of the shortage in skilled workers. So if you have plans of changing careers at the age of 30, you should strongly consider this option.

Mining Apprenticeships In Australia

Getting a job in the Australian mines is be quite difficult, especially since with the increase in demand for the workforce in the industry the quantity of interested job seekers has also increase.

However, if you still have no experience working in the mines, then a mining apprenticeship or traineeship is a option worth considering that can put you above the rest of the competition. The difference between apprenticeship and traineeship lies in the duration of the training period. While traineeships lasts only around six to twelve months, mining apprenticeships requires two to four years in the industry, both working and studying for completion.

Australia is well known for its rich mineral resources, making mining one of the biggest sectors in the country, so the mining industry creates a lot of jobs for the country’s workforce. The good news is that not all of the jobs available require previous experience and qualifications for interested applicants to apply. So if you have any plans of applying for some jobs in the mines but are having second thoughts because you feel incompetent due to your lack of experience, you may wish to consider an apprenticeship as your stepping stone in the industry.

What are the Requirements?

There are many different mining apprenticeships available in Australia and while some are not strict when it comes to qualifications and requirements, there are also companies that ask for specific requirements from interested applicants.

To be considered by some companies’ apprenticeship programs, applicants must be enthusiastic, motivated and show much interested in whatever field they have chosen. Other requirements that most companies ask are high school certificates, as well as meeting physical fitness requirements.

Mining Apprenticeships What Opportunities are Available?

There are different fields that an applicant can choose from, and below are just some of the highlighted opportunities in the mining sector which may be interesting to a lot of people aspiring to work in the mines – by starting with an apprenticeship.

Fitter and Turner

If you would like to learn how to tinker and fix machineries, such as pumps and motors, then a fitter and turner apprenticeships might be what you are looking for. The regular maintenance and repair of big machines can take place both on the mine site or in the mill processing plant.

Boiler Maker

Anyone who is planning to gain first hand experience in the mines should consider boiler maker apprenticeship. One of the requirements for this type of training would be of being in good physical shape, plus a doctor’s exam and approval of being physically healthy.

Heavy Vehicle Fitter

The mining industry basically revolves around big machineries such as dump trucks and back hoes. Without these trucks, the mining industry will cease to exist. If anyone has any plans of working and repairing these huge pieces of equipment, then heavy vehicle fitter apprenticeship is the best option.

The truth is, there are many apprenticeship opportunities available in the mining sector, and it is up to applicants to look for which they think will suit them the best.