November 27 2019
Saraya is an electrician at an underground coal mine, located in Central Queensland. She has an awesome career and has lived a fascinating and varied life for her 24 years! Read Saraya’s story below …
Name : Saraya
Role : Underground Coal Mine Electrician
About Saraya :
“I spent my youth growing up on the ocean. I lived on a sailing boat with my parents for 3 years .. during this time we covered about 20,000 nautical miles. We visited some of the most beautiful places on Earth, including Galapagos, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Fiji, Vanuatu and many more. I love any activities that involve been outside, in my free time I do a lot of scuba diving (I’m currently a certified rescue diver), fishing, snorkelling, volunteer work for a turtle rehabilitation centre, sailing, motorbike riding, camping, 4WD-ing and pilates.
Once I went to high school, we did not do as much sailing however I was lucky enough to be selected on one of the Mike Horn Young Explorers Expeditions who sponsored me to travel to Switzerland, Russia and Borneo. The purpose of these expeditions was to make the younger generation (us!) aware of our environment. Whilst overseas we conducted many scientific experiments and many environmental act projects within the local communities. I was 15 at the time, which made me the youngest explorer ever to be selected on these trips. Once returning from these expeditions it was our responsibility as young environmental ambassadors to come to our respective countries and start our own Act projects. I along with 3 other passionate environmentalists started the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in 2011. Fitzroy is a 1 hour boat ride from Cairns and it gets thousands of visitors annually from the resort guests to tourists from the mainland. We currently accommodate 22 turtles at any one time. After the turtles have stabilized to a healthy weight and their internal system is functioning properly we release them back onto the Great Barrier Reef.
I completed high school in 2012 with a lot of travelling under my belt but I still wanted to do more. I took a 12 month gap year and backpacked through Europe, USA and Canada. I returned to Australia and decided I wanted to be a tradesperson (as I wasn’t really cut out for university). I enrolled in a Cert II in Electrotechnology at tafe. While I was studying my certificate II at Tafe, I became a qualified Dive Master and on the weekends I taught sailing to young primary school kids.
Not long after completing my Tafe course I received a BHP Billiton Electrical apprenticeship commencing in Moranbah. I left my seaside home town of Scarborough and made the move to the outback to start my apprenticeship in an underground coal mine. I completed my 4 year BMA apprenticeship at Broadmeadows, just 30kms out of Moranbah. It was a groundbreaking move for myself and for BMA as I and the fitter apprentice female were the first two female apprentices ever to be employed at Broadmeadows.
I loved my job from day one. Each day was challenging as you not only had to learn your trade but there was a series of environmental factors such as; noise, darkness, dust that you had to spend 12.5hrs adapting too. However I would not of changed it for the world. I enjoy the new challenges that arise with my job daily.
I’m now 24yrs old and work as a fully qualified Electrician at Grosvenor mine. I’m the only female employed at this site underground, among the 396 males. Anglo American are increasing their females in the workforce however it is a slow process as there is not that many females who have completed a full traineeship or apprenticeship underground. So experienced females are hard to find at this point in time in this industry.”
My goals :
My career goal is to continue working as a tradesperson in order to increase my skills and experience on the tools underground. In 5 years time, I would like to see myself beginning to study for my EEM ticket which is an Electrical Engineering Manager. The role of the EEM is to oversee all Electrical installations underground, ensure all vehicles and machinery is up to standard and spec, and the EEM is responsible for every Electrician on site. This role would be incredibly challenging however with the right amount of training and experience I don’t see how it is not achievable within my working life.
A Typical Day Underground :
I wake up at 4.30am to the sound of my phone vibrating on my camp room bedside table. Splash some water on my face, grab my crib (which I make up the night before) and run to the bus which takes us to site. When you work underground there is no such thing as Monday to Friday, 9am -5pm.I head down the mine (or the “the black hole” as I prefer to call it) just as the sun is rising over Moranbah and return around 12.5 hours later. Often never seeing daylight for my 7-day shift.
At 6am I attend the pre-start briefing to get handover from the overnight crew and discuss the work plan for that day.
Our crew descends underground in a Driftrunner (like a troop carrier) down a steep ramp known as a drift.
We have another crew’s prestart underground with just our trades and operators. The ERZ Controller (commonly known as a deputy) of our panel explains the gas levels, area conditions and the air available and what to expect in today’s environment. This is a great opportunity for us to discuss with the fellow mechanical trades what machines will require maintenance during our maintenance window.
I have daily statutory inspections that need to be completed as well as unplanned electrical breakdowns that need to be repaired quickly so that when the afternoon/production shift comes in all the machines are ready to roll for the next 20 hours.
There are also deadly gases in the mines, like carbon monoxide and methane. Miners no longer take canaries down to test air quality; they have been replaced by digital gas detectors.
Daily when I go underground, I’m seeing a part of earth that most humans will never witness. I always think this is so cool.
6AM – 12 NOON
Much of my work is in an area call a Panel which is approximately 3 km long and 4 .5 m high. This is where the coal is cut and I do my checks and repairs. You are always standing under the steel mesh roof supports.
It’s crib time. The crib room is mobile and set up with a couple of benches.Food is important to give me energy and I take time to prepare easy to eat healthy food. On several occasions, I have made meals and snacks for all my crew. These guys are my family and I’m often around them more than I am around my own family.
The afternoon continues with repairs of breakdowns and helping each other out so we can finish on time and hand over to the nightshift with minimal ongoing issues.Reports need to be written with the days events.
Despite the technological advances, it’s still exhausting work. Many tasks are repetitive and physical, like hanging heavy power cables. We have access to many mechanical aids however there is still a lot of manual handling jobs as well.
I head to the bath house for that long shower to remove all that fine coal dust that manages to get everywhere.It is satisfying to complete another safe and successful day in a unique and challenging environment.
A huge thanks to Saraya for giving us an insight to life underground!
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