Hi, my name is Luke Reilly. After I completed my mining engineering degree at UNSW, I accepted a graduate engineer position with WMC Resources in early 2005. I had earlier spent two summer vacation placements with WMC at their Leinster and Olympic Dam operations and got a good feel for the company.
The WMC graduate program is spread out over three years and involves 18 months operational experience at each of their two major nickel mines - Perseverance (underground) and Mt Keith (open pit). The program appealed to me since it offered experience in both open cut and underground operations.
I started at Perseverance, which is a large underground sub-level cave mine, located near Leinster in Western Australia. Being in a remote location the mine uses a fly-in/fly-out system out of Perth and recently introduced a 8 days on 6 days off roster which is great. I am currently flying back “over east” to Sydney during each of my breaks. The mine is currently completing a major new development that will take it to 1100 metres below surface with studies investigating the feasibility of mining even deeper so there are some really interesting things happening.
I began my underground experience with the blasting crew placing explosives and ensuring they go off properly and safely. I’ve obtained a AD40 ticket which allows me to drive one of the 40 tonne articulated dump trucks used to transport ore underground. After further training I will move up to the 50 tonne trucks (they are much easier to drive than I had imagined). I am also gaining experience to operate the production drill rigs that are used to drill the large diameter blast holes.
After a period spent in these activities, I will move on to other parts of the operation gaining the requisite 12 months experience necessary for the statutory underground mine managers ticket.
By this time I should have a good understanding of the operation and will then move “upstairs” and get some experience in several engineering roles such as drill and blast engineer. I will then transfer over to the Mt Keith operation for the remaining 18 months of the graduate program.
BHP Billiton has just taken over WMC and this should offer an even greater range of possibilities and opportunities – in Australia and overseas. South America sounds nice. So its exciting times ahead.