Mining, Energy & Resources
If you’re fascinated by the process of extracting minerals, mathematically-minded, love a challenge and working with your hands then the mining, energy and resources sector could be for you!
The mining, energy and resources industry is a powerful component of the Australian economy. Australia has a rich background in the mining sector overall, something that has resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs and global innovation across the industry. The sector employs people from a range of skill sets, and some roles offer the chance to travel interstate and internationally for work.
The mining segment of the industry is responsible for the extraction of minerals including:
- Coal and ores
- Crude petroleum
Organisations that operate in this sector usually own, manage and maintain mines, quarries or oil and gas wells. Some organisations also provide support services to help develop, improve and innovate core mining processes and build a stable industry.
Main activities that take place across the sector include:
- Oil and gas extraction and mining
- Metal ore mining
- Coal mining
- Non-metallic mineral ore mining
- Other mineral mining and quarrying
- Services to mining
- Mining exploration services
- Contract and mining support services
The energy segment of the industry focuses on:
Australia is uniquely placed to explore the best ways to harness and distribute a wide range of energy resources to support communities while aiding sustainable practices.
Alongside mining and energy, Australia is in the top five producers of the world’s key mineral resources, including:
- Leading producer of lead, bauxite, alumina, limonite, rutile, zircon, and tantalum.
- Second-largest producer of gold, iron ore, lead, uranium, diamonds, and zinc.
- Third-largest producer of silver and nickel.
- Fourth-largest producer of black coal and manganese.
- Fifth-largest producer of aluminium, copper and lignite.
The industry is buoyed by a strong support infrastructure covering construction, engineering, trade, business and finance, transport, logistics and export – to name a few!
The work can be extremely demanding, and many workers in the sector are required to operate on a fly-in fly-out basis to work on rural and remote sites. This means you may work for a set period in a rural location, before having a set period of downtime. It does not suit everyone’s particular lifestyle but the compensation for working in such a way can be quite high.
Depending on the area of the industry you want to work in, there are entry-level right through to highly specialised and professional roles.
What You Could Do
Roles across the industry are highly varied and include a mix of low-skilled, entry-level positions, highly-skilled roles, and professional roles requiring specialised knowledge.
Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:
- Drillers, Miners, and Shot Firers: Drillers, miners and shot firers assemble, position and operate drilling rigs and detonate explosives to extract materials from the earth. It’s a very hands-on role that requires a lot of teamwork, accuracy and attention to detail. You can work as a driller, miner or shot firer without formal qualifications through on-the-job training, but it is a demanding area of work, so definitely be sure it’s right for you!
- Mining Engineer: Mining engineers evaluate, plan and oversee the construction of mines. They provide specifications on the processes, labour, and equipment required to achieve the goals of the mining project. Mining engineers typically have a strong background in math and science, excellent organisational and project management skills, alongside strong problem-solving abilities. To become a mining engineer, you’ll need a degree in mining and postgraduate studies tailored to working in this part of the sector.
- Machinist: A machinist operates computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, such as lathes and milling machines, to cut and produce precision parts for machines, instruments, and tools. Machinists typically support the maintenance of drills and other specialist equipment required for achieving mining objectives in the mining industry. Machinists repair or produce parts using both manual and automated equipment with precise measurements. It’s a very technical role that requires lots of problem-solving and analytical capacity, alongside patience and perseverance!
- Importers, Exporters and Wholesalers: Importers, exporters and wholesalers plan, organise, direct, control, and coordinate importing, exporting, and wholesaling establishments. The role usually requires some formal qualifications and specialist knowledge, especially regarding customs and international export.
- Human Resources Manager: Human resources (HR) managers are responsible for employment policies and procedures, overseeing payroll and recognition programs, and managing workplace safety initiatives. In a sector that needs the right people in the right roles and has a complex and demanding work rota, HR managers play a crucial role in supporting the people and promoting positive career pathways.
- Geophysicist: Geophysicists apply the principles and concepts of physics, mathematics, geology, and engineering to the study of the physical characteristics of the earth. In an industry that involves souring resources and drilling into different environmental areas, geophysicists play a decisive role in evaluating and providing guidance on where to mine and how viable it is. Geophysicists are exceptionally specialised in their knowledge, and a degree is a vital starting point for this role.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface!
The best way to learn more and help form decisions about the roles available and what you might be suited for is to conduct as much research as you can and build a profile from there.
Graduate Outcomes & Gender Split
While a degree isn’t crucial for every role or career pathway into the industry, it can help to know what employment from this route looks like.
The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.
Here’s a look at some graduate outcomes for engineering and related technologies:
- Science and Mathematics Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 59.1%
- Science and Mathematics Graduates in Employment Overall: 87.1%
- Engineering and Related Technologies Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 83%
- Engineering and Related Technologies Graduates in Employment Overall: 87.6%
Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!
*Figures from 2020 survey results.
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within.
The mining, energy and resources industry has typically been very male-dominated, and this seems to be a continuing trend.
Recent statistics indicate the split for manufacturing and production-based roles is:
Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:
- Mining Roles (Driller, Miner, Short Firer): $77,000-$111,000
- Mining Manager Roles: $104,000-$264,000
- Mining Engineer Roles: $120,000-$158,000
- Human Resources Manager: $90,00-$112,000
- Geophysicist: $86,000-$196,000
Overall, the mining, energy and resource sectors pay above-average salaries due to the work’s nature and commitment to unusual work patterns.
Wages across the sector are the highest of all Australian industries, more than double the average wage.
Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
- Location, some rural areas may pay less than roles in main cities.
According to the Department of Industry, Science, Emergy and Resources, the industry has been and continues to be one of the highest growth economies in Australia. There are ongoing opportunities for new projects and opportunities to expand existing projects across most mineral and energy commodities as demand for resources continues to grow – not just within Australia but globally.
Some industry decline is anticipated across coal mining and oil and gas extraction due to reducing demand and a more conscious effort to research and maximise more sustainable and environmentally friendly mining and energy practices.
Growth is expected to continue across Australia’s core segments of the industry including iron ore, liquefied natural gas (LNG), base metals, such as copper and nickel, and emerging minerals.
Given this expected growth, employment in the resources sector is expected to increase by 24 000 jobs between now and 2030 – equating to a 10% annual increase in employment.
The energy and resources sector also includes emerging and sustainable technologies, alongside research and development into these new areas. Things like solar power, hydro and wind energy are key areas of interest, with a high demand for specialised workers to continue exploring how these resources can be harnessed and distributed.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
For some professional roles, a bachelor degree can set you up well with the foundation of theory and knowledge to help you build a successful career in the industry.
Degree pathways you could pursue include:
- Bachelor of Environmental Sciences
- Bachelor of Engineering (Mining)
- Bachelor of Science (Geology)
- Bachelor of Science (Physics)
- Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering
- Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability
For some pathways, vocational education and training (VET) courses can offer specialised and valuable springboards into the sector.
Relevant qualifications you could pursue include:
- Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure Work Preparation
- Diploma of Human Resources Management
- Certificate IV in Hazardous Areas – Electrical
- Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety
Other pathway options might include:
- Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship from Yr 9 and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
- Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience and school-leaver programs in entry-level positions and work your way up over time. Many organisations will also support you to gain further professional qualifications. You’ll need a robust skill set and good grades in Maths and English as a minimum.
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.
Whatever your circumstances, grades or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.
Best Places to Study
Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some universities are rated higher than others for specific subjects.
Some of the best-rated universities for mining and energy studies include:
- Murdoch University
- University of Western Australia
- Victoria University
- Deakin University
- University of Sydney
- University of Queensland
Some of the best-rated universities for science and geology studies include:
- University of Western Australia
- Curtin University
- University of Tasmania
- Monash University
- University of Adelaide
- University of Melbourne
- Macquarie University
- University of Sydney
Where to Learn More
You can find out more about different pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.
Some good places to start include:
- DRC Chamber of Mines
- International Council of Mining and Metals
- International Zinc Association
- Minerals Council of Australia
- Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC)
- Australian Energy Regulator
- Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
- Solar Energy Industries Association
- Climate Council
And many more!
Each state will also have several professional organisations that can help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.