The Mount Isa Experience: Life as a mining graduate

Posted by David Jenkins

A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to have the chance to travel up to Mount Isa and catch up with Sue Wicks from Xstrata. This wasn't like my usual time on the road where I'll meet with multiple employers and in between spend time working in cafes. Sue was kind enough to organise an itinerary for me starting from when I arrived to when I flew out the next day. Xstrata take on 50  grads and another 90 students for their summer vacation program to work in Mount Isa. Me spending my whole life only living in cities (and yes Wellington is a city, not a small town!), it gave me a glimpse of what life would be like for graduates who make the move to Mount Isa. First up after settling into the motel Sue came and picked me up and took me to the largest pub in Isa the Irish Club. This all seemed normal until we pulled up in the car park and Sue informed me that it was line dancing night, I'd only seen this in country movies but experiencing line dancing that even included a real cowboy singer was awesome. This would definitely become a hobby of mine if I made the move to the mines in Isa and I personally think it should be part of the grad induction up there!

Going underground

After having the chance to see what grads can do in their spare time in Isa next up was seeing what they'd be doing for work which involves being over 1km underground!  Many Xstrata engineering & mining graduates get to spend at least 12 months working underground and understanding what it's like to work in the mine. Talking to Sue, many of the mining engineer graduates spend that first 12 months working on crews and understanding the various operations of work in a mine like diamond drilling, drill and blasting, ventilation.  It is so vastly different to what they learnt at university but few come out the other end regretting they'd been down there. The experience gained gives them the experience university doesn't offer and makes them far better engineers when they get back into the office and start their engineering work on a mine they literally now know.

The mile low club

For me getting the chance to go underground was one of the most amazing experiences I'd ever had, I got to spend a few hours with an engineer who looked after an area of the mine and he had a range of machinery to check on underground. We drove over 3km in the tunnels and made it 1.8km's underground, it was incredible to see how the copper mine functioned, it's always running and workers do 12 hour shifts, once you're down there you have no concept of time and the heat underground is something that these guys do heavy duty labour in daily. As I've only experience working in IT departments checking out the mines in Isa has definitely opened my eyes up to what some of these engineering and mining grads are getting into, but like me and rest of GradConnection who all have a love for anything IT one thing I noticed about those working the mines was their general enthusiasm and knowledge of mining and the Mount Isa mine.

Thanks Sue :)

A special thanks to Sue Wicks who organised everything for me, it's definitely been the stand out trip I've been on this year. And congratulations to Sue and the Xstrata team for winning the AGRI award for best online strategy for their graduate program!

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