Job title

Process Engineer at the Andoom Beneficiation Plant in Weipa

Who do you work for?

Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa

What does your job involve?

I work as a process engineer at a beneficiation (or washdown plant) for the mineral bauxite (used to make aluminium). The plant’s main purpose is to wash and size the ore from the mine so it can be transported easily through our downstream rail and ship loading systems. The primary aspects of my job are:

  • Monitor the operation of the plant and identify and rectify process excursions.
  • Initiate and work on projects to increase throughput or decrease downtime. To achieve these projects, work could involve changing of equipment, altering the control systems in the plant, and trialling new types of products (wear resistant materials).
  • Accountable for plant performance reporting and plant downtime system.

Why did you choose to work in this sector?

The mining sector is currently a corner stone for the Australian economy and being involved in it seemed like a good place to start off my career. I felt that working in an industry that should have some longevity would give me opportunity for career progression.

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

Working with our maintainers and operators to achieve common goals. Finding a solution for an issue that our team is having and following it through to the end is great. Working onsite means you are able to see the benefits of the projects you are completing.

What has been one of your recent achievements?

I was lucky enough to work in a cross-functional team (including members from our Technology & Innovation function) that collaborated on a suite of projects designed to increase production at our plant. Helping facilitate and brainstorm these projects and see their effect in helping us reach record production figures last year was very rewarding.

What is the most challenging part of your current job?

Initially, it took a while to understand the mechanical systems at the plant. Although I studied engineering at university, it did not give me a lot of knowledge on how machinery parts actually work. I am still bridging this gap in knowledge but it involves asking a lot of questions to fitters, electricians and operators. You quickly learn there is never a dumb question, and even if there is, at least you know the answer once you have asked!

What do you hope to do in the future?

I am only at the start of my career so I would like to gain a broad block of knowledge to build upon in the future. This means I would like to gain experience in other engineering processes, leading people and in the other parts of our business (including finance and marketing). Hopefully, my next role will allow me experience in one or two of these areas.

What are some of the other benefits of your job?

I have been able to get a great new life experience living in a remote part of Australia. I had grown up living in a city and made the move to Weipa (town of 4,000 people located on Cape York) not knowing what it was going to be like. Living and working in a remote community gives you much more perspective on how you want to live your life. I have enjoyed getting involved in the small community and doing activities (like four wheel driving, fishing and camping) that I would have never done if I had stayed in Melbourne.

What training did you have for this job?

Bachelor of Engineering (hons) and Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne.

What career advice would you give to school students interested in a similar career?

  1. Try and get a part-time job in something that is related to what you think you might like to do in the future. If you think you might want to be a mechanical engineer, maybe get a job where you are able to construct things or help build equipment. In this way, instead of just earning some money, you will also get a feel for whether you would like to have a career in this industry or one similar.
  2. Learn another language. There are many opportunities in the mining and engineering sectors overseas. This will open up a lot of doors to you and it is easier to find time to learn while you are at school.
  3. Most importantly, try and work out the things you enjoy doing and find a career where you can do them. Think of what your hobbies are or what you do in your spare time and/or what subjects or parts of subjects you enjoy studying. Once you have done this, try and list and get some information on careers where you can incorporate some of these activities or skills. These are the careers that you should be looking at doing as they are the ones you are most likely going to enjoy.

To find out more about how Rio Tinto supports classroom teaching and learning in maths, science and business studies for young people aged 12-16 visit SMART, our free international education portal. Using a combination of interactive whiteboard presentations, printable lesson plans, worksheets and case studies, students can explore how their academic studies relate to real-world operations in a major global business.