Deadly Outback: What else lurks on a mine site?

Non-toxic snake

How can you avoid creepy crawlies on site? And what are mining companies doing to protect endangered species?

Let’s not make light of the fact that Australia is home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders.

Sure, most Aussies grow up knowing this and don’t really let it bother them. It’s unlikely you’ll encounter a lot of them living in the city, but if you’re working on a mine site you have more chance than most people of coming face to face with some of our creepy crawlies.

With this in mind we’ve prepared this practical guide on how to coexist with our dangerous wildlife and we also ask the question, what are mine sites doing to protect endangered wildlife?


Like it or not snakes are prevalent on site and whether you’re on night or day shift you’ll need to be aware of them. King browns, dugites and red-bellied black snakes are just some of the most common species in Australia. Contrary to popular belief most snakes are not aggressive by nature (although the taipan in Queensland definitely is!) and mostly attack if they’re scared or protecting their young. Most of the time if you see a snake, giving it a wide berth is your best option.

Most mine sites call in snake handlers to teach their employees how to react to and handle a snake.

According to a report by the ABC News, snake handler (or herpetologist) Brian Bush has been employed by South Australian mining company Eyre Iron to teach miners how to handle snakes.

“The mines are actually oases in the desert and they’re surrounded by these natural areas and the snakes meander around,” Bush told the ABC.

“It’s tremendously beneficial from an employer’s perspective to have people who can manage them in a safe way.”


Redback and whitetail spiders are some of Australia’s most common spiders and its most venomous. Unfortunately these little critters can be hard to spot, especially if they’ve crawled into your bedding or boots. Always make sure you check your boots before putting them on by giving them a good tap and tipping them upside down and try to remember to check your bedding before you crawl in after a long shift.

As far as spiders go, it’s important to also keep them in perspective. Australia’s spiders get a pretty bad rap but according to National Geographic, ‘a death in April 2016 was the country's first recorded spider-caused death since 1981’, so the odds of not being bitten by a spider are actually in your favour.

What to do if you are bitten

If you do suffer a snake or spider bite, acting quickly and getting to the first-aid or doctor’s station on site is paramount. If you can, take note of what bit you, knowing what the snake or spider looked like will help a doctor quickly work out the best antivenom to give you, which could save your life.

Bees and wasps

A bee sting is harmless, right? Well, not if you’re allergic to them, and many people don’t know they are until it’s too late.

If you’re on the receiving end of a sting, beekeepers say the trick is to scratch the sting out, not pull it out. Pulling it out means the venom will spread faster into your bloodstream.

And if you notice an adverse reaction to the sting (overzealous swelling or a tightening of your throat or arms), then get to a first-aid station stat.

Another trick beekeepers recommend is to put honey on the sting, which helps because it’s a natural anesthetic.

Wasps are a different kettle of fish because, unfortunately, they can keep stinging and don’t die after one sting like the bee. If you get caught in a swarm of wasps or bees, your instinct will be to swat them, but this is the worst thing you can do. They can smell fear so walk out of the way; don’t run.

What mine sites are doing to protect our animals

Not all animals are unwelcome on a mine site.

Rio Tinto has been working in partnership with the Pilbara Wildlife Carers Association (PWCA) for the past few years to ensure the ongoing treatment and care of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

The company has invested $90,000 in the partnership and says that the funding enables PWCA to continue to rehabilitate and release wildlife across the Pilbara and also to educate the community to humanely care for wildlife when the need arises.

Similarly, Woodside’s environmental management approach saw it awarded an Environmental Excellence Award by the APPEA.

The program includes a partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia, and Woodsiders have contributed significantly to community coast care groups and have worked closely with conservationists to rehabilitate and protect coastal and estuarine environments.

Fortunately, wrangling creepy crawlies isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a job in mining. If you’re an experienced miner looking for your next role, get in touch with Mining People International.

Beverly Ligman
Mining People International