​Spotlight On Mine Managers

Mine managers – no reputable mine would be without one! All jokes aside though, these professionals are responsible for a range of activities that are essential for the successful running of a mine site. Essentially, they plan, organise and supervise all mine proceedings.

Most mine managers spend the majority of their time on site rather than in corporate offices and as a broad overview, they:

  • design and administer the ongoing development of the mine itself
  • map out future mine production,
  • monitor the quality of what is being dug up in the mine, and
  • keep a watchful eye out for potential danger spots within the mine and its surroundings.

However, mine managers may also find themselves responsible for a wide range of other associated activities around Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance, particularly in smaller companies where tight budgets may mean fewer specialist professionals can be employed in those areas.

What will we find if we delve further into the daily / weekly / monthly life of a busy mine manager?

Obviously we'll find them involved in all those activities outlined above but let's take a more detailed look at just what they entail. 

Planning – this is undoubtedly what a mine manager can expect to spend most of their time doing. It is one of the central skills listed in job ads for mine managers, and is also one of the first things experienced mine managers list in their CVs.  Planning includes:

  • Development, implementation and management of the mine's operational policies and plans,
  • Production scheduling,
  • Daily monitoring and reporting on the progress of mining operations,
  • Participation in the company's business and strategic planning with a view to improving overall growth, competitiveness and profitability,

Environmental compliance – in today's increasingly eco conscious world, mine managers must be equipped with the knowledge and skill sets to handle this important aspect of mining operations. To that end, most mine managers these days will find themselves involved in:

  • Developing, encouraging and ensuring a positive and environmentally responsible culture within the company,
  • Ensuring and maintaining environmental compliance across all pertinent regulations, policies and procedures,
  • Keeping abreast of all relevant developments in environmental compliance and statutory responsibilities,
  • Establishing good relationships with local and other environmental regulatory bodies and agencies,

Finance And Capital Projects – it goes without saying that companies expect their mine managers to get involved in all the financial aspects of running a mine. That includes assisting with, or being responsible for:

  • Formulation, compilation, submission and management of (cost effective) capital expenditure projects designed to improve or expand mine capacity and operations,
  • Budget preparation (production and operational), implementation, and administration,
  • Cost and performance monitoring / evaluating, and reporting on these to higher management,
  • Sourcing quotes, or supervising the sourcing thereof, for capital expenditure work, liase with contractors, and follow up on work carried out,

Mine sites are amongst the most hazardous working environments in the world; most countries with active mining operations experience double-digit fatalities every year. Accident and injuries rates are even higher. Some countries are far worse than others – China for example once averaged around 5,000 mining related deaths every year. By far the most common surface injuries relate to flying debris – standing too close to blast areas, or using excessive charges are cited as the 2 most common causes. In underground operations, misfired and premature explosions are the leading culprits of mine injuries and deaths. For this reason most mining jurisdictions have quite stringent health and safety regulations in place. Understandably therefore Occupational Health and Safety, and regulatory responsibility ranks highly on most lists of Mine Manager duties and may include:

  • Developing, encouraging and ensuring a positive health and safety culture on and off site, including formulation of on-site workplace policies with pertinent HR personnel,
  • Ensuring compliance with all O H & S inspection and reporting requirements, both internally and externally
  • Organising and running safety meetings, and conducting safety inspections,
  • Liasing with the relevant mining health and safety authorities and their representatives,
  • Making sure all relevant Mining Act codes around O H & S are adhered to,

Risk Management goes hand in glove with O H & S, so a mine manager can reasonably expect to be involved in mitigating risks. The best approach to minimising risks is by being proactive rather than reactive ie by anticipating / recognising and resolving potential concerns before they become problems, and by always looking to improve the way things are done from a risk management perspective.

Mine managers may also find themselves involved in people related areas such as:

  • Working with HR departments to resolve staffing issues,
  • Training and management of multi-cultural, multi-disciplined workforces, particularly in foreign jurisdictions,
  • Developing and arranging training programs for mine site personnel ie overseeing safety training programs for repair and maintenance crews tasked with caring for equipment,

as well as delving into the realm of Human Resources around such responsibilities as:

  • Developing, encouraging and ensuring a positive working environment,
  • Encouraging and supporting the building and development of an effective, skilled workforce,
  • Supervising the recruitment, appointment and development of senior mine site personnel,

They will definitely be required to

  • Head up the operations management team, and manage the mine's various other personnel and overall human resources,
  • Administer daily activities for the various departments that report to them – operations, engineering, maintenance, exploration,
  • Generate work orders for shifts,
  • Establish and maintain positive relationships with relevant unions

Although ensuring the mine's equipment overall is kept well maintained and in good working order is the mine manager's responsibility, managers on some sites may additionally be required to be familiar with how most of the equipment operates, including hands on operating experience. Generally though as part of their operational duties, the mine manager typically:

  • Manages the deployment of new equipment, including initial mechanical inspections, installation, work schedules and maintenance routines,
  • Organises operator training on new equipment,
  • Liases with Safety Officers regarding the formulation and implementation of safety polices for new equipment,
  • Oversees the requisition of spare parts for new equipment,

One of the biggest issues facing the modern mining industry is reputation, and the need to form positive and mutually beneficial relationships with the communities on whose lands they're operating. In fact, obtaining and maintaining a Social Licence To Operate is now rated by most mine management teams as one of their top priorities. As the employee directly responsible for the day to day operations of a mine, it is invariably the mine manager who is entrusted with:

  • Maintaining good relationships with local communities and their leaders,
  • Supervising community projects and corporate commitments entered into as part of the project's social licence to operate,
  • Promoting the company's policies and engender goodwill within local communities,

Does the Mine Manager have to do all these things?

Obviously some of the responsibilities listed above overlap those of other personnel. A large company may for example appoint HR personnel to take care of all mine related HR and training related matters, and Occupational Health and Safety officers to manage the mine's safety and risk exposure but these roles will usually report directly to the mine manager. In smaller operations, a mine manager should reasonably expect to find him or herself more closely responsible for many, if not all, of these tasks.

What Qualifications Does A Mine Manager Need?

In most jurisdictions, Mine Managers require a recognised Mining Engineering degree, or the equivalent. They also need experience across a range of related fields, along with various certifications and tickets, such as:

  • All necessary Mine Manager's competency certifications,
  • Extensive experience at Mine Overseer / Section Manager level,
  • Familiarity with mining legislation and reporting requirements,
  • Familiarity with risk management, and O H and S as it relates to mining,
  • Planning and operational experience,
  • Financial acumen and project management experience,
  • Mathematical aptitude,
  • Computer skills and experience with mining, word processing, spreadsheet and design software,
  • Business skills,
  • Analytical skills
  • Problem solving skills,
  • Decision making skills,
  • People management, performance and team building skills,
  • Interpersonal skills,
  • Verbal and written literacy skills,
  • First Aid or similar emergency certification,

Depending on the type of operation they will be managing, they may also require:

  • Extensive underground experience and any mandated certifications that go with the management of underground operations (a must for underground mine management),
  • Technical knowledge and understanding of underground operations,

How Much Does A Mine Manager Get Paid?

That depends on the level of the position and it also varies from country to country, and even from company to company. According to various sources:

  • Mine Managers in the US can expect to be paid between $80,000 and $250,000 US a year, with the average being around $140,000.
  • In Australia, the average mine manager salary is $263,540 AUD whilst overall salaries range from $250,000 to $275,000.
  • Canadian mine manager salaries range from C$143,00 to C$180,000, with the average being around C$165,000.

They can also earn bonuses on top of their base salary, and in many cases may have additional benefits factored into their salary package – housing, vehicle, fuel, payment of utility bills etc.

How Does One Become A Mine Manager?

Someone who possesses the required qualifications ie an engineering degree in mining or similar, and requisite industry experience, can enrol in the various certification courses needed to take up a Mine Manager position. Many institutions offer these courses, and often the classroom work can be done online via e-learning.  A quick consult with Google should return you any number of educational options.  Obviously you then need to do your due diligence and ensure that wherever you enrol, you're going to come out at the end with legitimate, industry-recognised certifications.
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