A mining electrician is someone qualified to install, repair, maintain, test and inspect the electrical equipment and systems used in mining operations.
Mining electricians are responsible for the installation and maintenance of electrical systems within underground mines. They ensure the relevant equipment is functioning properly and is safe in accordance with the site’s Occupational Health and Safety standards. A mining electrician must have the ability to read blueprints and schematics and understand electrical codes and regulations. They must possess deep knowledge of electric theory, need to be able to identify and troubleshoot potential hazards and rectify them as quickly as possible. Typically, they are responsible for installing, testing, maintaining, repairing and reporting on all electrical equipment used throughout mineral, gold and coal mines.
What are the tasks of a mining electrician?
Mining electricians are responsible for inspecting, isolating, troubleshooting, and repairing all electrical components so that electric power is available at all times without interruption. In addition to handling the overall installation and maintenance of electrical systems, they ensure that all electrical components on-site perform optimally and safely. They must be able to install, maintain and repair specialised electrical mining equipment, and ensure that electronic circuit boards, chips, processors, as well as hardware and software – including programming and other applications – are functioning correctly. Often, mining electricians must also test and install other electrical systems used in operations, such as ventilation and lighting.
An electrical miner prepares electrical materials and equipment for projects, which can include cutting metal and the fabrication of wire or cable. Maintaining records of work performed and materials used in any repairs is also a critical requirement of the role. These specialist electricians need to review and understand equipment manuals and review both blueprints and drawings to determine the electric requirements for any project being undertaken. They take great care that any repairs performed on damaged equipment is done properly and in line with OH&S standards. An understanding of schematic drawings and electrical circuit diagrams is a must.
They will need to analyse electrical loads to assess the need for additional wiring and understand the principles of electrical circuits and associated risks. In underground mining environments, these electrical specialists will often need to conduct hazard assessments and obtain the required permits before work commences. Other common duties include writing detailed technical reports and designing plans for the layout of new systems. Mining electricians typically work closely with their site’s mining engineers.
What is the difference between a mining electrician and a mining technician?
Although the job title and profile of a mining electrician and mining technician sound similar, they are very different jobs. Technicians are involved in the care and repair of electrical systems, whereas fully qualified electricians are responsible for building and installing them.
Mining Technicians work on systems with guidance from blueprints and schematics. Generally, technicians gain most of their skills through on the job work experience. In most countries, there is no specific course or formal qualifications to become a mining technician. In comparison, a mining electrician training is more intensive and requires the completion of a formal electrical apprenticeship. Apprentice electricians need to accumulate a large sum of supervised working hours in combination with exam-based testing before they become a fully qualified electrician. As a result, mining electricians tend to receive a higher salary than mining technicians.
What soft skills should a mining electrician have?
Excellent levels of competence, strong technical knowledge and the necessary qualifications are all essential for the job. But, as is the case with many roles, soft skills including the ability to communicate effectively are also extremely important to perform the role well.
Communication skills, empathy and assertiveness
Mining electricians need strong communication skills to interact with colleagues in adjacent roles such as miners, technicians, journeymen and other electricians. These skills may be needed to explain technical information, to get others to see things from a certain viewpoint or to train new electricians.
Problem-solving skills, resilience and initiative
Problems will arise and the ability to offshoot these is a strongly desired skill in the workplace. Problem-solving capabilities can help identify the source of an issue and remedy it. Problem-solving skills also help with time constraints faced and help come up with the best ways to carry out a task, such as installing electrical equipment in more complex locations.
Physical strength and endurance
It is important to consider the physical nature of the job as mining electricians tend to work longer days than many other professions. Working full-time year on year can be tough and will require a high level of self-determination and endurance. The role will likely require some degree of heavy lifting, standing and working for extended periods, fitting in tight places, going up and down scaffolding and stairs, and bending and crouching down. Depending on the type of mine where the role is based, it may include working underground. Both excellent hand-eye coordination and good vision are essential due to the intricate nature of working on electrical wiring.
Important certificates and qualifications for a mining electrician
In most countries, an undergraduate course is required. Some countries and/or employers also require a master's degree in electrical engineering. To help stand out, a master's in electrical engineering, math, or science would be useful.
Additionally, an electrician needs to have relevant work experience, gained through jobs or an apprenticeship program, normally four years. This normally means you will get around 2000 hours of hands-on training, which may be attained underground on-site and in the classroom. They need to be familiar with OH&S.
As you might be working in different places around the world, some require you to pass local licensing exams. As an example, for working in Australia, you will need to pass an exam in a specific state. For example, with the UEE30820 Certification III in Electrotechnology, you will also need an Unrestricted Electrical License and another certification called the Hazardous Areas and Instrumentation and perhaps one in High Voltage Switching to be fully certified. In Canada, to be certified, it is the Red Seal certificate. In the USA it is the Electrical Engineering Professional Examination (EAPE). It is better to think about the country you are most likely to work in before you start a course and aim to be certified.
Some key skills that will be required:
- AC/DC Theory
- Motor Control
- Renewable and Sustainable Energy
- OSHA Construction Card Requirements
- AutoCAD Electrical
- Power Transmission
- To test Power Meters
- Facts about Electrical Energy
- Industrial Automation
If you did not study electrical engineering as a bachelor's degree, you might be able to enter the profession by doing a second degree in this.
What does the career of a mining electrician look like?
Job prospects for fully qualified electricians are generally good and tend to offer good salaries. Full-time electrical roles can be found with many employers, not just in various types of mines themselves, but in a range related areas such as:
- Mining finance corporations and consultancy companies employ electricians to compile the estimated costs and assess the viability of new gold mines.
- Environmental consultancies employ electricians to provide them with information on the surface, and developments underground which may effect the environment. Such as reclamation of disused industrial sites.
- Quarrying and extraction corporations may employ mine electricians to plan and assess their quarrying operations and oversee and manage their sites. This is also true for manufacturing and construction companies who often search for individuals with this skill set.
At the start of their career, mining electricians will need to adapt to working on-site and learning important skills from more experienced colleagues. The nature of the industry means you will constantly be learning and expanding your skills. You may be encouraged to gain further qualifications in related fields such as geology or more advanced electrical courses.
Career progression for a mining electrician may include stepping through multiple positions as your career develops. This could take a route similar to the following:junior mining electrician
- mine planning electrician
- senior mining electrician
- mine supervisor
- resident manager
Promotion tends to occur every 2-3 years. Salaries can vary and pay reviews can be annual. Generally, bigger mining firms provide more well-structured development programs, higher salaries and more opportunities for promotion. Career patterns vary and you may work in a role for a year or more at a time with an annual review. In the UK for instance, they can work more in office-based roles, working for international firms. This may lead to management opportunities and a salary rise, but you need to search for these. It's possible to work in mine finance. You can also apply for careers in IT, and construction careers also beckon and offer good pay.
Where are mining electrician jobs and where are they employed?
Mining electrician jobs are generally available wherever mine sites exist. There are many coal and gold mines in Australia, the United States, Africa and some locations within Europe and South America. The United Kingdom does not have many mining jobs but does employ related roles in engineering. Most corporations are located in mineral reserves and quarries. Conditions on site can be challenging.
How should you prepare when applying for a mining electrician job?
Employers hiring mining electricians are usually seeking a combination of technical qualifications, hands-on experience and relevant soft skills such as communication. They will expect potential employees to not only have a strong grasp of electrical systems, components and devices, but also the ability to explain things in simple language to non-technical colleagues. Before attending an interview, practice explaining your knowledge without the use of acronyms and see if someone understands.
If you have studied abroad and have attained diplomas in non-English speaking countries, get them translated. If you are working for an international mine in a non-English speaking country, English is likely to be the predominant language, so practice your English.
Brunel specialises in supporting the workforce needs of the mining industry and has many opportunities to connect qualified electrical professionals with jobs in mines throughout the world.