Meet Rio Tinto's newest recruit
For geologist Chris Copping, Rio Tinto's focus on safety was one of the huge draw cards in deciding where to seek work. The British-born geologist, who joined Rio Tinto in June 2012, said not all companies placed safety as their highest priority.
"A lot of people take safety for granted but if you come from working somewhere where you have no satellite phone and you're by yourself in the middle of nowhere, you realise how important it is," Chris said. "Here we have a medic on site and all these things that have been put in place for one reason - to keep the employees safe and well to keep you in the job. I think that's pretty good."
Chris joined Rio Tinto's resource evaluation team and is working to find the next big resource and with it, the next likely mine site. He is based in an exploration camp called Boolgeeda, in Western Australia's Pilbara region, about 1060 kilometres north of Perth. The nearest town, Tom Price, is 60 kilometres away; Rio Tinto's huge Brockman 4 mine is nearby.
Day to day, he supervises one of four reverse-circulation (RC) rigs, which drill into the earth to find mineralisation in an area where ore is thought to be. From that, the exploration team, which includes about eight geologists, creates a "resource model" advising the business where ore is likely to be found.
"The scenery is amazing in the Pilbara," Chris said. "I get to see things that a lot of Aussies don't ever see. If you work in the city, you look out your window and you see a building, or a whole string of buildings. Here we see the sunrise, the sunset, the rust red earth and the wide blue sky. The stars on a clear night are amazing."
Chris and his colleagues in Boolgeeda are employed as part of Rio Tinto's innovative regional fly-in-fly-out programme, which allows them to live at home and minimises separation from family and friends.
"I live in Perth and fly in and out on an eight-and-six roster, which means I spend eight days on site then have six days off," Chris said. "A group of geologists is flying over to Bali soon for a couple of people's birthdays; with six days off you can do that. And I plan to try to travel and see a bit more of Australia."
After a period of indecision during which he considered becoming an accountant, Chris studied geology and earned an honours degree in applied geology from the University of Plymouth. He moved to Australia in January 2011 and initially worked for a gold-mining company "right out in the middle of nowhere". Prior to that he'd worked on oilrigs in the UK.
"This is definitely a massive improvement on everything," said Chris, who looks forward to a long and productive career with Rio Tinto. "They're a fantastic team up here. Everyone is friendly, everyone helps to improve you and they've got a couple of extra geologists so that we can have a bit of time off the rig to do office work as required.
"It means that I can get a broader overview of what is involved - different aspects of what needs to happen on the projects - rather than just sitting on the rig all day."
Employees at Boolgeeda are housed in "dongas", complete with air-conditioning, television and fridges.
"There is everything you want on the Rio Tinto site. There's a mess hall, a great canteen, you get the food cooked for you and there are people from all walks of life to talk to. The dongas have all the luxury of a hotel, there's nothing you could complain about. I've even got phone signal!
"At my last job, we'd spend weeks at a time sleeping in a swag in the middle of nowhere, cooking for ourselves on a fire. In some places there was no water so you had to carry everything in with you. I've gone from one extreme to the other!"
While Chris has no desire to leave Australia in the short-term, he hopes eventually to work for Rio Tinto around the globe, possibly flying between London and exploration sites in Africa.
"Rio Tinto has excellent career development and because it is a global company, it offers the ability to move around and create a career with one company. And with Rio Tinto's safety standards, there is probably nothing I'd have to worry about anywhere in the world, even in developing countries.
"It's an exciting time to be part of the mining industry. Life would be very different if I'd done accounting. I want to get out there, to be outside, travel and see the world. If I can get paid to do it, then great!"
With billions of dollars invested in projects across Australia, Rio Tinto is looking for skilled engineers, trades, operators, project professionals and other specialists to help drive their plans for expansion.
The company, which is an official partner of the Australian Olympic Team, has recently launched a recruitment campaign using Olympians Libby Trickett, Drew Ginn and Steve Hooker and employees to attract skilled people to fill critical roles across its Australian mining operations. In addition to print, radio and online advertising, Rio Tinto has set up a dedicated website www.jobs.riotinto.com.au and a special jobs hotline 1300 MINING (1300 64 64 64) to support job seekers.
Rio Tinto employs more than 20,000 Australians and is proud to be the largest private sector employer of Indigenous Australians with more than 2000 Aboriginal employees.
"We are the engine room of the Australian economy and Rio Tinto's looking for enthusiastic, skilled people to help us bring our new projects to life," Chris said.