What is a FIFO driller and how to become one

mining driller jobs - Aston Advantage

So you’ve heard drilling is good money and could lead to a lucrative mining career,  but the process of getting a FIFO job feels out of reach? We’re here to let you in on what’s required to land those elusive FIFO driller jobs.  

What qualifications do you need? Does FIFO drilling require previous mining experience? Where do you even start?

As with all jobs, it’s best to do your research before you start applying. Drilling jobs can be competitive, but there are plenty of opportunities and multiple pathways into the industry. 

To kick start your journey, we give you FIFO driller basics. 

What does a FIFO driller do?

Before we get to the driller job qualifications and FIFO driller salary, let’s make sure you’re across drilling basics. 

There are different types of drill rigs including; reverse circulation drilling, rotary air blasting and diamond core drilling. The method used depends on the type of rock being drilled.

If heavy machinery is involved, what does a FIFO Driller do? Well, quite a lot actually. And it all depends on the size and complexity of the project. 

There are different drilling jobs including; driller’s assistant/offsider, driller, geologist, field assistant, and supervisor. Each role requires different drilling knowledge. 

Driller’s offsider/assistant

A driller’s offsider or assistant is an entry-level role, which you can learn on the job. Your role is assisting the driller. 

This job includes:

  • Moving drill components 
  • Assisting with drill rig operations 
  • Assisting with drill rig maintenance
  • Digging trenches 
  • Delivering samples

Driller job

A driller oversees the operation of drilling and maintains the drill rig during the shift. 

The job includes:

  • Setting up the drill rig
  • Moving drill components 
  • Maintaining a drill rig
  • Operating drill rigs
  • Taking samples
  • Checking safety 
  • Daily reporting 
  • Managing assistants/offsider

Whether you’re a driller or a driller’s offsider, drilling work is by no means easy. You work outdoors (or sometimes underground), and conditions are hot, noisy and dirty. 

You have to be physically fit, which is why mining companies favour people who have worked in heavy labouring jobs. 

You will be away from home for usually weeks at a time, depending on your FIFO swing, so this has to be factored in before you start applying. 

How much is a FIFO drilling salary?

Driller jobs vary but usually start at $33.00 an hour, $2,500 a week, or $90,000 a year. It’s a great starting rate, but remember these rates are most often for 12 hours days for consecutive days in a row. On the plus side, when working on site your accommodation, gym membership and most meals are usually included.

Drilling is labour intensive and physically demanding work. But for many FIFO drillers out there, drilling is the perfect job, especially for those looking to save up a nest egg and break into the property market.  

How do you become a FIFO Driller?

Like many jobs out there, there are different pathways to becoming a driller. Most drillers start out as drilling assistants and work their way up. 

Drilling assistants or offsiders don’t necessarily require previous experience, though it does help to have worked with trades or have experience in resources or construction. 

You’ll need:

  • Police clearance
  • C-class driver’s licence 
  • Good work ethic 
  • Clear communication
  • Willingness to learn
  • Physical fitness (imperative)
  • An understanding of OHS policies

Some mining companies offer traineeships in drilling operations (level 2 or level 4) or driller (level 3). These take 1-2 years to complete. Traineeships are great because you can earn them while you work. 

Another way to get your foot in the door is to study drilling at TAFE. You can study Certificate II and III in Drilling Operations. These qualifications will give you a leg up in the job application process. 

You can also study Certificate II and III in Surface Extraction Operations, which will give you a broader knowledge of mining, and set you up for other opportunities such as Production Operator, Drilling Plant Operator, Mining Plant Operator and Shot Firer.

Many mining big shots have begun their career as drillers. It’s certainly a great introduction to mining and can provide you with a base to further your career on site. 

Want to check out if there are driller roles available in your state? Search Aston’s driller jobs here


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