Solomon Islands

25 Mar 2011

by Marc Passion

Inside the Mine

The mining boom in Australia has brought all walks of life to some of the remotest parts of Australia all looking for the big dollars. I have to tell you, they are definitely not easy dollars. Extreme heat, freezing winds, a million flies which end up snacks between meals (trust me, you will swallow a few from time to time) and a great distance between family and friends. Still sound like something you want to do?

I have worked in mining on and off in the past four years and when I tell people I work in mining, I always get the same question; “So what is it like working underground?”  This is the most common misconception people have.  In fact, I’m not technically a miner, and my background has been the construction of power stations to run the mine and processing plants that ready the element for export, and I have yet to go underground.

In most camps we live in ‘dongas’, prefabricated transportable accommodation, comprising of individual rooms with ensuites. They contain a bed, desk and wardrobe. As basic as can be. Camps consist of a mess hall where we eat and a wet mess where we drink. Usually gyms, tennis/basketball courts and swimming pools are there for our use.

I’m Currently in the Gold Ridge Camp in the Guadacanal Province. Roughly 1200m above sea level and 40 minutes from the Capital, Honiara. The rooms here are simple dongas. The gym isn’t open, the food is some of the worst I’ve eaten, there aren’t any other facilities and the internet is abysmal.

But I can’t complain. Why? Because if you’re one of the unlucky ones, you might find yourself in the dreaded ‘Lower Camp’, where you’ll find yourself sharing ablution facilities with other nationalities whose custom it is to stand on the toilet seat.

We even found stickers around the place reminding people of what not to do.

So you may well ask, if it’s so bad, why do it? Who in their right mind would take off to places so remote that a medivac is needed? Why work here under these conditions? Well it all comes down to cold hard cash! I can earn significantly more working away than in Sydney and that allows me to continue my true passion… travelling the world. I work for around six months of the year and travel the rest. Longer travels allow me to immerse myself in the local customs and culture of my new found country and truly experience the meaning of travel.

An  interesting article from It might entice you to make the move into the industry: Laundry staff can earn more than $420K a year! (A slight exaggeration I think) But read on.

There are 3 kinds of people that head to the mines:

The first is ‘The Family Man’. The best way to earn good money quickly is to head to the mines. The family man can pay off his mortgage quicker, then return home sooner to live a normal life, but debt free.

Then there are ‘The Thailanders’. The guys that just love mining. They’ve been doing it for years and see no end to their retirement. Most of them have houses and bars in Thailand and are cashed up after 20 years or more in the game. They’ve probably been married and divorced at least twice, lost two houses on the way, but still they do pretty good from the money earned over the years. Most of our swings are 3 or 4 weeks on, then 1 week off. So ‘The Thailanders’ use their time off to booze it up in Bangers, Phuket or Pattaya.

Lastly, ‘The Party Boys’, such as myself. We work our butts off working for long periods of time, and then take off months at a time cruising around the world.  We basically blow all that hard earned cash before returning back to the mines to start the cycle all over again.

So that’s us; Miners.  From all walks of life, we come together to build something, for the sole purpose of lining our own pockets and increasing the wealth of shareholders. I can’t deny the impact on the local environment is tragic, but I think that’s the same for most businesses – the only difference to the suits in the city, is that I get to see it with my own eyes instead of on a TV.

Related posts:

  1. A Dangerous Game
  2. Sunset Sky, Up in the Guadacanal Hills
  3. Virgin, I’ve got the Blues
  4. Austin…is frigin cool!


  • elp

    Wow looks comfy

  • Nomadic Samuel

    Marc, I really learned a lot from this article.  The misconception most of us have about miners being underground is definitely not true.  I like the idea of work hard and then play hard.  If you’re a travel addict it works out even better.  LOL @ the guys standing on the toilets.  When I was in an Indian restaurant in Daegu, Korea I went to the bathroom and noticed a guy (from India) pissing in the sink!!!  Needless to say I didn’t end up washing up my hands after dinner :P

  • Anonymous

    Interesting way to earn money for travel. Sounds like difficult conditions, but I would rather work hard with long periods off then be in a comfy cubicle and only get two or three weeks off.

  • Colleenbloomfield

    Am I a family man, A Thailander or a party boy ???
    Colleen xxx

  • Marc Passion

    Haha…I’d say probably a party ‘girl’! Depends on whether you are a brunette or a blonde :-P

  • Marc Passion

    It’s great for me, head down bum up. Put in the hours so you can enjoy more hours at the end. Conditions are difficult sometimes but you get used to it. Whether it’s cyclone windy, raining cats and dogs or blistering heat!