Adventures in mining engineering

Josephine is currently studying Mining Engineering and recently joined BHP as a Junior Mining Engineer. We chatted with her about her degree and her experience working on a mine site during a summer work placement.

Mining student on placement

What do you enjoy most about your course?

I love mining engineering because of its multi-disciplinary nature, combining my interests in engineering and business. Although it seems to be very specialised, it is an amalgamation of many disciplines, from geology, engineering and environmental studies to data analytics, economics and finance. This inspired me to complement mining engineering with economics.

Furthermore, I am grateful for the supportive nature of my friends and university lecturers in my course. They always encourage each other to be the best they can be, and always have your best interests at heart.

Why did you choose to study Mining Engineering?

It grew out of my interest in commodities. My grandfather owned businesses including a jewellery shop in Indonesia. He was involved in the entire process of making gold bullion and jewellery my grandmother designed. During my early years of primary school, he gave me the daily responsibility to report to him the price of the US dollar, gold, and oil prices; he would then ask me to guess the next day’s price movement.

Mining student on placement

You recently completed a summer program on a mine site – how did you get this opportunity?

I scored my first vacation work through being a finalist for two scholarships in the middle of my first year of university. Although I did not receive either, I was fortunate one of the scholarship sponsors – Mount Gibson Iron – offered me vacation work in their Environmental and Approvals team. My role was based in the corporate office and included monthly site visits to monitor the health of rare listed plants. This was my first time visiting a mine site, and while working in the field I heard my first blast! At that moment, I knew I wanted to explore mining engineering. Since then, I have undertaken vacation work with Fortescue Metals Group, PwC Australia, Deloitte Australia, BHP, and Rio Tinto, working in open-pit and underground mining engineering, metallurgy/processing engineering, environment and approvals, external auditing, analytics and cognitive consulting teams. The process with these companies involved a written application, psychometric testing, online interview, case study, presentations, and first- and second-stage interviews.

Mining student on placement 

What was the best thing about your summer program?

The best part of these programs was the exponential learning curve I experienced by being on site. The opportunity to see mining operations with your own eyes helps to understand the context of the business and how to ensure the work you are doing in the office will make a safer and more productive operation. Also, the networks you build through vacation work are invaluable and I have been blessed to have met many people who eventually became my mentors.

Mining student on placement

What was a typical day like?

4:00am Wake up and get ready for the day

4:30am Breakfast

4:45am Leave the village

4:50am Coffee time!

5:00am Night shift production meeting

5:20am Office work – it varies day to day, which makes my role very exciting. Generally, it involves producing drill and blast designs, catching up on emails, creating meaning from data, meetings, backfill designs, weekly scheduling work and plenty of projects to improve safety and productivity on site.

10:00am Spend a bit of time underground (my favourite part of the day). I love seeing the activities that take place underground and learning from the operators.

12:00pm Lunch time

12:30pm Office work

4:30pm Day shift production meeting

5:30pm Home time

6:00pm Gym

7:00pm Dinner

8:30pm Sleep

What challenges were there on your program?

Initially, the early morning wake-ups and 12-hour days are a challenge, but you get used to it after a few weeks and find your routine. I love how I can smash out one week of work and then have a well-deserved one-week break!

What experience and learnings from your studies and time at UWA were useful during your summer program?

I have found a lot of the theories, practical laboratories and site visits provided a solid foundation to all my vacation-work programs. The site visits I attended through my Mining Engineering units have made a huge impact on my career. I used to fear the idea of underground mining, but at the end of my second year, UWA Mining Engineering alumnus and Mining Engineering Professor Richard Durham organised a site visit to an underground gold mine. If it were not for that particular site visit, I do not think I would have undertaken vacation work at an underground mine the following year and found my happy place!

Mining student on placement

What advice would you offer to other students thinking about applying for a summer program?

My biggest advice is to be yourself throughout the entire recruitment process. I believe it is the best way for companies to see if you are a good fit for them and for you to decide if the company is a good fit for you. At the end of the day, it is a two-way interview!

What are your future career plans?

I have recently commenced a full-time role as a Junior Mining Engineer at an underground mine with BHP while I continue pursuing my studies in Mining Engineering at UWA. My dream career would involve the amalgamation of engineering, technology, business acumen and working with people. Thus, my current goal is to eventually become a Production Mine Manager of open-pit and underground operations. With this goal in mind, I am currently working towards satisfying the requirements for the First Class Mine Manager’s Certificate Competency of Western Australia, which involves working as an operator for one year and a total of five years working at underground mining operations. I also hope to mentor and encourage more people in my generation to pursue a career in mining engineering, which has afforded me a plethora of opportunities to meet amazing people and have plenty of adventures!

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Our Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree is now available as a five-year combined degree with either the Bachelor of Commerce or the Bachelor of Science. This will allow you to pair your passion for engineering with skills in business and commerce, data and technology, environmental science, maths or physics, providing you with the opportunity to broaden your career options for an edge in a rapidly changing workforce.

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