The varied choices of the mining engineer
With a rich history and assured future, the minerals sector has much to offer the freshly minted mining engineer. But it certainly isn’t a career with tunnel vision. There is no one road but numerous pathways that can be achieved from this starting point. If you’re looking for adventure you can create a career where virtually no place on earth is off limits. Depending on your interests you can forge opportunities in finance and banking, sustainability, leadership, research, management consulting, and more.
Richard Horton who graduated with his UNSW Bachelor of Mining Engineering in 2009 has travelled the world as a mining engineer and is now a management consultant based in Sydney. He started his career on a graduate program with MMG in North West Queensland before being offered the opportunity to work at the Sepon copper and gold mine in Laos, Southeast Asia, as a long-term mine planning engineer.
Travel was a major reason for choosing a mining engineering degree, so to have that opportunity really early in my career was great
“After 18 months of fly-in fly-out to the site from Sydney, my wife and I moved to the capital city Vientiane. Living in Laos was a big change from living and growing up in Sydney and we took the opportunity to travel to some of Laos’ great tourist destinations, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, as well as the beaches of Thailand on the weekend.”
Latin America was next on the list and he moved there to work for a company called Mining One. “I worked as a mining consultant in Santiago, Chile for three months followed by three months in Lima, Peru. Travel was a major reason for choosing a mining engineering degree, so to have that opportunity really early in my career was great.”
Richard has now found his niche in management consulting and works for a company called Partners in Performance. “I really love the variety and opportunity I’m afforded as a consultant, working in a broad range of industries assisting businesses unleash their potential and to succeed through challenging times,” he says.
Sarah Ivers, who graduated with a Bachelor of Mining Engineering in 2016, has an interesting story where she found herself spoilt for choice at the end of her degree. “I was thrilled to be offered a place on Accenture’s graduate program as I’m really interested in business consulting, but when I was offered a job with Peabody Energy, where I’d worked on a student summer placement, I decided to accept and pursue mining engineering for the time being. I’m loving my new job as a graduate mining engineer getting geotechnical and planning experience across both open cut and underground coal mines.”
This decision hasn’t dampened her ambitions however and Sarah thinks that numerous doors remain open to her in the business world, where she is interested in moving into consulting one day.
“As a mining engineer, I think you are very ‘marketable’ towards consultancies because of the strong technical background, structured thinking and problem solving focus. At the moment, I want to keep all my options open. I’m thinking about project planning because the business aspect is what interests me, or I might get an MBA and make the jump into something business related.”
Combining Mining and Commerce as a double degree was the key that unlocked all the doors for Albert Borysiewicz to join the graduate program at the Commonwealth Bank. “Specifically, my position is in Colonial First State Global Asset Management, we are the institutional wealth management side of the Commonwealth Bank. Essentially, we decide how to invest institutional clients’ money, so super funds or sovereign wealth funds, into various asset classes such as property or Australian equities or resource companies.”
Having interned with the Commonwealth Bank in summer 2015/2016 Albert had his foot in the door and was snapped up as soon as he graduated. “They said I had the perfect mix of business and mining engineering knowledge and that I was well placed to be able to assess a prospective mining company, and say, “Yeah, that’s a worthwhile investment.”
Albert strongly believes his degree has opened up a wide variety of career choices for the future.
I feel the degree itself was pretty open. We did a little chemistry, some electronics, some management, a bit of finance, a bit of technical mining
“Even though mining is a niche engineering field, I feel the degree itself was pretty open. We did a little chemistry, some electronics, some management, a bit of finance, a bit of technical mining. Because of that I feel like I’m at the starting point where I can easily mould and adapt what I do next.”
Mining engineer Maddison Luchetti has just started her graduate program with Barminco at Rosebery Mine in Tasmania. Her current job is working as a “nipper" to gain an understanding of the underground operation. "My job involves setting up headings and then assisting the jumbo operator to install the ground support in development areas. I’ll stay in this role for a few months and then rotate through different roles within the crew including charge-up, services and hopefully jumbo operator,” she says. Maddison is happy to be on a fly-in fly-out roster, and comes home to Sydney every second week.
“I chose mining engineering as I grew up hearing about the industry, with my father working in mining for over 20 years. My ambition has always been to enter a career where I am constantly challenged and have the opportunity to spend most of my time working in the field,” she says. For Maddison, mining engineering clearly fits the bill.
At this stage, Maddison is sure her career will always be focused towards mining, although she will consider doing a business or commerce degree to further advance her skills and knowledge in the future. “My main career goal at this point in time is to gain my First Class Mine Manager’s Certificate of Competency so I can become a Project Manager, then in 10 years’ time I’d like to be working as an Operations Manager, but one day I’d love to join the executive team so I can have direct involvement in the decision-making processes for the business.”
Barbara David graduated from UNSW in 2016 with her degree in Mining and Civil Engineering and has recently started her graduate job as a geotechnical engineer for the international consultancy GHD. “We work on a variety of projects around Australia, from roads and tunnels to tailings dams and rail projects,” she says.
Growing up in the NSW mining town of Cobar, where both of her parents were in the industry, Barbara found herself attracted to mining engineering from an early age. “I’d seen how interesting and varied mining can be so I thought I’ll give it a go. Vacation placements to open and underground mines were definitely the most valuable part of my degree, because it really helped me put into perspective what I was learning. I had a fantastic uni life and am excited about the future. I’m not sure where I’ll end up at the moment but I’d like to continue in the geotechnical engineering field.”
While all the evidence points to the wide range of cross-disciplinary opportunities available to mining engineering graduates, Sarah believes there continues to be an unjustified perception that studying mining engineering will only equip you to work in a mine. “I don’t think this perception is accurate at all,” she says. “I think the degree is very open-ended.” Indeed, taking a quick look around her contemporaries confirms this flexibility.
“In addition to many who are pursuing traditional mining engineering careers there are some who are doing more unusual things. I know a mining engineer turned high school math teacher, another who is doing a PhD in geotechnical engineering, another who is looking at a PhD in software engineering. People are going down different paths and finding what interests them,” she says.
“I’ve seen mining engineers take up traditional civil engineering graduate positions, a few people have gone into IT or commodities research, and another who is now a geotechnical engineer for tunnelling,” continues Albert. And Maddison say she knows mining engineers working in financial advisory services as well as working alongside mine inspectors with the NSW Department of Industry in the Resources and Energy sector.
With mining engineers in hot demand, starting salaries so high and career paths so varied, if you’re considering whether or not to pursue mining engineering, consider this: what’s not to like?