The red, wide-open spaces surrounding the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in north-west South Australia are a long way from the small, relaxed fishing and surfing town of Streaky Bay on the Great Australian Bight where Thiess Operator Jasmine Carey grew up.
But it is here in this vast landscape, that the vibrant 31-year-old has seized every opportunity to recognise and achieve her full potential to become one of the site’s leading machinery operators.
Initially moving to Adelaide to study marine biology, Jaz had returned to Adelaide after some time back home, to work as a veterinary nurse just over seven years ago when the opportunity to go to the mines came along for her.
“I had a few friends working at Prominent Hill at the time who raved about it,” Jaz explains.
“Initially, I wasn’t at all interested and a bit hesitant about a career in the mines, but then one day I thought, I’m just going to apply and see how I go.”
Two days after submitting her resume, Jaz was contacted for an interview. Two days after that, she was putting in her resignation at the vet clinic to take up a role at ‘The Hill’.
With no prior industry experience, the sheer size of the machines was initially quite intimidating. Jaz’s first role on site was a dump truck operator on the 793C and D trucks hauling out of the open pit. From there, she learnt to operate two small loaders - a Volvo and a CAT - and then the water cart.
“Initially I was pretty scared and overwhelmed about driving such huge machinery,” Jaz explains.
Once the open-pit mining was complete, operations at The Hill changed and feeding the crusher from the piles of ore on the ROM (run of mine) became the main priority and Jaz was approached to move onto driving the much larger CAT 994 loader.
“I actually said ‘no’ to the 944 training when I was first asked. They’re massive and I still pinch myself that I can drive one,” she laughs.
“But now, I’m glad I took up all the training opportunities I’ve had along the way.
“It was a big change from driving any other machine I’d been passed out on. In addition to the size, there’s no steering wheel - you have to use a joystick.
“The joystick is on the left side of the cabin, and there are two small levers on the right side to operate the bucket and boom. Initially you can suffer from a bit of motion sickness from the toing and froing in a small space to load the truck, but eventually, you get used to it.”
With some high-quality coaching and mentoring from some of the best operators on site, Jaz completed her 80 hours of observation and 80 hours of driving with an observer to be assessed as competent and passed out as a loader operator in November 2018.
Since then, her load times have continued to improve, and she is a valued member of her crew and the Prominent Hill team.
So, are there any regrets about the decision to make such a significant career and lifestyle change?
“No regrets at all,” Jaz says.
“The Hill is a great place to work. My crew are good people and always fun, and the other loader operators are always there to help me when I need it or have questions.
“I also love the flexibility of working hard for one week and then getting a week off. I should have backed myself and made the change sooner.
So, what’s next for the outdoors orientated Jaz, who likes to spend her weeks off in the sun either back in Adelaide with her partner camping or working on their house or spending time with family and friends in Adelaide or Streaky Bay?
“I’ve been really lucky and had so many great opportunities to learn and grow-up here and for that I’m very thankful.
“I really love animals and working with them, so maybe one day I’ll go back to vet nursing, but for the time being, I’m committed to the mining industry.
“There are a few new machines out here, so if I’m lucky I’ll hopefully get a chance to master those too.”