Mining: The Christmas Special

(7 votes)

Tis the season to be jolly. But are there any reasons to be happy if you’re a miner and you have to work this festive season? Let’s face it, most of us don’t want to be working at this time of the year and would much rather be spending time with our family and friends and eating good food and maybe indulging in a tipple or two. Yet sometimes, for those who work in the mining industry, working over Christmas is often part of the package.

There are plenty of reasons to stay jolly at this time of the year though, even if you have to don the hard hat instead of the party hat. The good news is that a resurgence in the mining sector looks imminent and this means improved job security in a market recently beset by forced redundancies and layoffs.

St Barbara Parade, Kalgoorlie WA

Stock prices for the big Australian mining companies have taken a turn for the better over the past few days after a period of losses. Rio Tinto’s stock price gained 80 cents (to $66.29) and BHP Billiton added an extra 35 cents (to $36.80) to its share value. Further evidence to support the fact that mining will continue to be the trump card in the Australian economy is the recent announcement made by Rio Tinto to spend nearly $9 billion on expanding its operations in Western Australia. And the reason for this? The big miner wants to ensure it can capitalise on the continued need for iron ore in the developing world, particularly in China.

This move refutes proclamations by the doom and gloom merchants who decry an end to the boom in the Australian mining industry due to a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

If you’re a miner there are plenty of causes for staying cheery this Christmas, though if you’re a Grinch (and a miner) there are also some grounds for getting grumpy. Many mining operations do not pay additional loading for working over the Christmas period as this type of benefit is already factored into workers’ salaries. Anecdotal evidence suggests it is the rare mining company that may pay its workforce a bonus of about $500 for working at Christmas, if the company is doing well that is.

More often, companies may splurge on good food to feed staff who happen to be on site on Christmas Day, but if you’re thinking of getting drunk, think again. No company wants to be seen as responsible for promoting drinking just in case a mishap happens on the mine site and alcohol was found to be the cause. One practice that miners, especially those with children, have adopted over the years to avoid the family fallout of working at Christmas is the “shift swap”. This informal practice is usually only carried out by those with residential roles.

It involves people who are rostered on to work Christmas Day paying a colleague (usually between $200 and $500) to swap shifts so they can be at home unwrapping presents with their family rather than being on site unearthing minerals with their other family.
The shift swap is just one coping mechanism miners utilise to dampen the effects of working at Christmas. Another fairly common practice is for FIFO mums and dads to have an early Christmas with their loved ones the week before Christmas Day.

This solution is effective in that parents still get to see the looks of joy on their kids’ faces as they unwrap the gifts that all their hard work has managed to provide. This is probably akin to the sensation Clive Palmer experienced in 2011 when he gave out Christmas gifts totalling $10 million, including cars and holidays, to 800 people who worked at his Townsville nickel refinery. Those who received such lavish gifts were specially chosen because of their work performance.


There is no truth to the rumour that underperforming workers were given lumps of coal as gifts in 2011 because Clive’s coal project in the Galilee Basin had not yet been approved.

Minetalk recently spoke with Deanne Hislop, creator and owner of My FIFO Family a company that specialises in supplying resources for kids of FIFO parents. Ms Hislop relayed further coping strategies she suggests as part of her work with FIFO families about coping with a parent being absent over Christmas.

Firstly, Deanne stressed the importance of not being overly fixated on celebrating Christmas Day on December 25th.
“Discard the idea of celebrating Christmas Day on the 25th if you are going to be away,” she said.
"The date when you celebrate Christmas as a family is more important than sticking to the traditional date of Christmas Day", said Ms Hislop.

"Especially for parents with younger children, it is important to get them ready for the fact that mum or dad are going to be away Christmas Day". Ms Hislop related how using a calendar, such as the ones to be found on her website, aid children in understanding when (and why) a parent is going to be away and importantly, when they will see them again.

Establishing family traditions, such as an early Christmas, is one way of ensuring children don’t miss out on celebrating Christmas with their parents as well as reducing the stress on the home front whilst one partner is away working.

Christmas is a stressful time of the year even for those families that don’t have a FIFO parent. Being away from home at this time can be hard on a FIFO worker and if things are not running smoothly at home this only adds to the stresses of the season.

Christmas is meant to be an enjoyable time of year when people come together as family and friends. For those who can’t be at home this year on Christmas Day you now have no excuse as to why you should grumpy this festive season – because, after all, it’s the thought that counts. Or in the famous words of the Grinch who stole Christmas: What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little more?

Check out My FIFO Family for more information on balancing family and mining this Christmas.

Written By:



o BHP A$31.91 ▼0.24 (-0.75%)
o Rio Tinto A$58.55 ▼0.65 (-1.10%)
o Fortescue A$2.02 ▼0.12 (-5.61%)
o Newcrest A$12.42 ▼0.23 (-1.82%)


Company ID [ASX:BHP] Last trade:A$31.91 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.24 (-0.75%)

Rio Tinto

Company ID [ASX:RIO] Last trade:A$58.55 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.65 (-1.10%)


Company ID [ASX:FMG] Last trade:A$2.02 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.12 (-5.61%)


Company ID [ASX:NCM] Last trade:A$12.42 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.23 (-1.82%)


Minetalk Poll

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

No, it's just media hype.
Yes as a result of lower demand.
Still plenty of resources.
There will be a second boom.
1 Votes left

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