What is working on a mine site like for a woman?

Mining team, male and female looking at rock face

What’s it like being a woman working FIFO on a mine site in Australia’s mining industry? We asked a couple of women who’d done it, to find out.

What’s it like being a woman working FIFO on a mine site in Australia’s mining industry?

Thanks to the hard work of the team at the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), we actually have a pretty clear picture.

Let’s look at some data from AusIMM’s Women in Mining Survey 2020, before we hear the opinions of some women who have recently worked in FIFO or DIDO mining jobs.

What are conditions for women like on a mine site?

The graph below shows how women who work in mining generally rated amenities, food, travel support, and so on, in their workplaces.

While areas like food and amenities received very high scores, the chart does show some areas where women in mining felt there was room for improvement. As you might expect, childcare services, for example, are pretty well non-existent.

READ MORE: Women in mining: Just how supportive is our industry? 

The challenges for women working in mining

So those are the amenities, but what about the lived experience of women working in FIFO mining jobs? We asked a couple of Mining People team members who were working FIFO until relatively recently about the challenges women face.

Alida van der Merwe, our Senior Consultant of Mining and Geology, has worked on four FIFO sites (as well as working residentially) as part of technical teams.

She said women face many of the same challenges as men — like keeping relationships at home healthy, missing your kids, and dealing with long hours and long away swings.

“That is the part that is difficult onsite,” she said. “I think in some respects women might even have it easier, as if you manage to make friends onsite, women generally are more likely to discuss their feelings and frustrations without worrying about coming across as weak in front of your workmates.”

That willingness to talk, and share experiences, could help women feel mentally stronger to work onsite, she said.


READ MORE: Sacrificing lifestyle for FIFO: Is it worth it? 

Buddying up with other women onsite

In fact, according to Jasmine Cole, Mining People’s Senior Consultant for Processing and Maintenance, mining companies themselves are often now encouraging women to support each other onsite.

“If you are a woman and new to the industry, for your first few swings you are buddied up with another female,” she said.

This buddy system is a great way to help ensure women joining a crew are quickly and comfortably familiarised with their new workplace.

“I found working onsite fine,” Jasmine said. “I personally didn’t have any moments of not feeling safe or accepted, and the men I worked with were respectful, helpful and kind.”

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Dan Hatch
Mining People International