Life in a Mining Camp.

For sometime now I’ve been meaning to do a post on life in a mining camp for those of you that are curious as to what it is really like. 

I personally love it. Whats not to love about getting your meals cooked for you, room cleaned, free gym membership etc. And whats better is that as of last month I now work a 8:6 roster, so I work 8 days and then have 6 days off, compared to my previous 2 weeks work, 1 week off. 

Although for some the camp lifestyle wears thin after awhile. Away from the wife/husband and kids (isn’t that a good thing? – haha),  camp food, hot weather etc.

My camp is located 400km south east of Port Hedland in Western Australia (Map of Western Australia) at Woodie Woodie Manganese mine. All the mine employees get flown up to Woodie Woodie from Perth on a 30 seater Brasilia airplane, the flight takes 3 hours and lands at the mine airstrip.

The closest town is Marble Bar just over an hour away. After 8 months I still haven’t been there, and with its claim to fame is being “the hottest recorded place in Australia” I don’t really have much desire to go there, although it has one pub! Woodie is in the middle of nowhere, its just the mine and the camp, that’s it.

As far as camps go, Woodie Woodie is apparently scrapping the bottom of the barrel as it does not have cell phone coverage or reliable internet for personal use, and these comforts (or maybe these days, necessities) are pretty important, especially if you have a family back in Perth. This is probably why the camp turnover rate is so high, being estimated around 80%. Although a new camp is planned to be completed by the start of 2009.

The people that complain about conditions are usually people that have worked in the mining industry for a long time and are use to the high standards of other camps. But for me being new to the industry and compared to the oil/gas rig camps I was staying at in Canada, Woodie is 5 star

Some of the Western Australian mining camps should be called Mining resorts. My mate works at Tefler Gold mine, they have a basketball court, Olympic sized swimming pool, massive gym, big bar, driving range, playing field, a bowling green, en-suite rooms with internet/phone, plus they get air points for flying to work!  - and they pay you to stay there!

So now I will run you through my typical day at work.

0440- beep beep beep – No your not stuck in traffic, its that dreaded sound that pulls you from the lovely dreamland and signals the start of the day. I bounce out of bed ready for another glorious day in the Mining Industry.  I start my extensive beauty regime, I apply my make-up, brush my hair, have a shave – NO – I put on my clothes, do 20 minutes of back exercises, then its off out the door.

0510- Breakfast time runs for a few hours, from about 4am to 7.30am. As they have to cater for the guys starting day shift at 5.30am and the guy’s finishing night shift at 5.30am. There’s breakfast options for everyone, for the people that want type 2 diabetes there’s always a cooked breakfast, aswell as cereals and fruit etc.  You also pick-up your lunch for the day at a self serve buffet counter, with breads, salads, lunch meats, fruit etc on offer.

0530- Each department eg Exploration, Mining, Dewatering etc have there morning shift change/safety meeting.  The first thing completed is the pre-shift alcohol breatho, where you have to blow zero’s before starting work. A safety topic is discussed, an update given from the night shifts drilling (mines are 24/7 operations) and tasks to be completed for the day planned.

0545-1730 – Then for the following 12 hours I complete my tasks (I work as an Exploration Field Assistant which involves taking samples, marking out drill sites, etc – basically I’m a boy scout). If you are interested in what I do click here on this link What is my job?

1745-1830- This time I usually go to the gym and work on adding some meat to my skeletal system – I think I’m one of not many on-site that has a 24pack (of ribs). The mine site also has an on-site Physiologist who organises events each night, eg fitball classes, volleyball etc. 

 1830-1900 – After showering, its time for dinner at the communal mess hall (dining hall), where you choose from 3 meal options and side dishes. Dinners served from 1600 to 1930.

 1900 – 2000- Sometimes I head down to the wet mess (bar) for a beer after dinner.  The Wet mess opens at 1700 and shuts at 2030.  Although now with the new astroturf soccer field in place there’s less time spent in the wet mess which benefits the health and wallet, although the on-site injuries have skyrocketed with some rough soccer games, haha 

2000 - till bed time-Then its back to my Donga (the name for your allocated room with accompanying ensuite) where I chill out, read a book, watch a movie or just hit the sack and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.  It can sometimes feel like ground-hog day especially when you stay and work a long swing (4 weeks etc).

So thats my life while at camp. And before you know it, its fly out day and your on the plane back to Perth, woop woop!