Life on a mine site: what’s it really like?

Interested in working in the mining industry? Wondering what life is like on site? MEC mining engineer Daniel Li gives you the lowdown.

Recently, I had my first experience working at an open-cut mine in Central Queensland. This was a big change for me after spending a year in Brisbane, so I thought I’d share my experience and insights with non-mining people who are curious about what it’s like to live and work on a mine site.

Roles and rosters

You may be wondering what kind of work is required out on site. There are so many different roles, and this variety brings a great mix of people to meet and form a community with. Roles include:

  • technical personnel and engineers (mining, geotechnical, electrical, mechanical and surveying)
  • truck drivers (big mining trucks)
  • operators (mostly dozer, excavator and shovel)
  • traders (mechanics and electricians)

People generally work a 12-hour shift each day. On the operational side, there are usually two crews that work back-to-back to keep the mine running around the clock.

As mines tend to be located in remote areas, people usually need to fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) to do the work. Depending on the location of the mine, the rosters can be quite different. My roster experience was four days on and three days off, but other types may be seven on and seven off.

Accommodation, food and recreation


When you are on a FIFO roster, you typically live on site in a mining camp and are transported to and from the mine site. The rooms are usually portable cabins equipped with a single bed, bathroom, air conditioner, television and fridge – everything you need!

foodAll your food is provided at the camp kitchen, also known as the mess. There are mixed reviews about the food but you’ll find a large variety of options for you to get your daily nutritional balance.

Occasionally there are social events on at the camp, and this is a good way to make friends so you’ll have company when you’re rostered on.

Every camp has at least one gym, so you don’t have to worry about getting out of shape if you’re spending long periods working on site. For some great advice on staying fit on a mine site, check out MEC mining engineer Sam Hubbard’s health tips for FIFO workers.

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