Mining Lingo 101

Logically I should have started my blog adventure with this post rather than put this together a year and a half after my first post. For those of you who know me, you would know that being logical isn’t usually my go-to state of mind. I make things more interesting by defying logic – this is what I keep telling myself anyway!

I didn’t know most of these terms when I first started so I couldn’t possibly have shared it with you anyway. I still get confused at times with all the different terminologies that are thrown around on-site. So if you need a back up reference or you seem a bit suss about my explanations, Google is your friend.

FIFO – Fly In, Fly Out. My relatives and mates who live outside of Australia are baffled when I post photos of my ride to and from work. Since my work site is over 400 kilometres from home, flying is the best option. A lot of remote mine sites in Australia use the FIFO system to get their workers on-site. However, there is also the DIDO (drive in, drive out) option for those who live closer. We had to use a bus to get out of site one day and let me tell you, flying is by far the best option. Even if we have the extra bumpy plane rides, flying is still the best option to get to and from site. Both adventures –the bus trip and the super bumpy plane ride – I will share with you guys in upcoming posts.

Our ride to and from site. Every Monday I jump on one of these babies.
Our ride to and from site. Every Monday I jump on one of these babies.

Roster – “What’s your roster?” is one of the first questions people who work within the mining industry ask each other when we meet at social gatherings. It’s happened to me several times since I started in this world. When you see random numbers next to job adverts, it will start to make more sense the more you hang out with mining people. Numbers such as 5,2/4,3; 8,6/7,7; 8,6/9,5; 27,4; 11,3; 3,1; 2,2; 2,1; 4:1; and the combination goes on and on, usually refers to how much time you will need to spend at work and off. The first number indicates when you have to be at work, and the second number is when you are home. The ones with the / means that you do a rolling roster. For me, I am on 8,6/7,7 which means eight days on, six days off when I am on days and seven days on, seven days off when on nights. I am one of the lucky ones on an equal time roster meaning I spend pretty much an equal amount of time at work and at home. The ones on 4:1 are not so lucky since that means four weeks on and one week off. The mining veterans will tell you that “back in the day” the longer rosters were the norm – most of them would have been away from home for months at a time and at home only for a few days or a week!

Swing – When I talk about my swing I mean when I am at work. What the origin of this word is when it relates to working away I am not sure. I notice that some people refer to their divide between work and home as swing on and swing off. I tend to refer to my time off differently.

My office. It's pretty isn't it?
My office. It’s pretty isn’t it?

Break – When I am on break means I am at home, I can sleep in and I do not have to eat cold roast chicken for lunch as a consequence of sleeping in. Break is when I can: catch up on TV shows, go on lunch dates with mates, cook and eat whatever I feel like. Break is when I brave the public transport to venture into the city to catch up with friends who may not realise how torturous taking the train is (especially during school holidays) for me nowadays since my daily ride to work is a mere 15 minute bus trip. The agony that is finding a car park at the train station, the hour long train ride into the city and of course the ride back, makes me very thankful that I no longer have to do this commute every single day.

Donga – Our home away from home; our rooms on site. After months of slumming it in a small room on-site we were finally moved into the proper, bigger rooms. These big rooms are approximately 4 metres x 6 metres, decked out with a king size single bed, ensuite bathroom and shower, wardrobe, desk, bedside table, bookshelf, TV and Foxtel (we now have over 30 channels, back when we were slumming it we only had 10, upgrade definitely a win-win – or so we were told anyway), and a bar fridge. Some decorate their rooms with rugs and bring their own recliner chairs to make it feel more like home. I make random piles of magazines and clothes to make my room feel like home.

Dongas. There's four dongas next to each other per building and four buildings in a row. For every four rows of dongas there is a laundry block.
Dongas. There’s four dongas next to each other per building and four buildings in a row. For every four rows of dongas there is a laundry block.

Crib – Crib Bag, Crib Room, and Crib. Let me break this down into sub categories.

Crib – Is the meal we bring to work. We pack our crib in the mess before we leave for our shift. The options are fairly limited but it does challenge you to get creative. Admittedly though, there are days when the best option is two minute noodles. Some days you can put together a pretty decent salad or sandwich from what’s available. If you are an early riser then you have the additional option of leftovers prepacked in the fridge. However, on mornings where getting to the mess early is a feat akin to climbing Mt Everest, you don’t get the fancy leftovers. When I am on day shift I just barely drag my carcass to the mess with seconds to spare so I miss out on the leftovers 90% of the time. Okay fine, 98% of the time if I have to be really honest!

Crib bag – From what I can gather this means any bag you bring your lunch in. To the bag obsessed ladies out there, no there isn’t a specific style or design for a crib bag. It seems to come in all shapes and sizes. I have the biggest crib bag going around where I work. I haven’t seen anyone with a bag close to mine in size or prettiness. My bag is so big that strangers have actually come up to me to ask if they can just see how much it actually weights. Yes, I have managed to shove so much crap in my bag. While everyone else just has the bare essentials and lunch in their bags, I seem to bring the kitchen sink. Heck, some days it’s like I have a whole house in there!

My pretty crib bag as shown on http://www.paksac.com.au/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=121 Dimensions: 340 x 220 x 380 mm
My pretty crib bag as shown on http://www.paksac.com.au/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=121
Dimensions: 340 x 220 x 380 mm
The contents of my crib bag. Add a jumper during winter and the newspaper on Thursdays.
The contents of my crib bag. Add a jumper during winter and the newspaper on Thursdays.

Crib room – Break room. Why it’s called a crib room I am not sure. The only reason I can come up with is because you eat your crib in this room. I haven’t checked my dear friend Google as yet. I want to figure this out on my own. I am hoping that the longer I am in the industry then I can uncover how these terminologies came about.

Mess – There’s a dry mess and a wet mess. I have a feeling I may have this one wrong but from what I can gather dry is where there is no alcohol, so this is where we pack our crib and where we have our meals. Wet mess on the other hand is the bar, where the alcohol is flowing but only during certain hours. Some sites do not serve alcohol but ours does. However, the bar is not open all day or all night. There are sessions. Similar to how the kitchen (dry mess) isn’t open all day. They only open for certain hours in the morning and at night.

Old mate – I am not sure if this is a mining thing or just general good ol’ Aussie slang. I did not come across this term until I started on-site. I used to think when the boys said “old mate” they were talking about a particular person. The first time I heard this used we were in the crib room and the person who said it nodded their head in one direction. So I followed the direction they nodded in and tried to find the oldest person in that general area. Alas, there was no one old. Most of them were around the same age! Safe to say, I was fairly confused for a few swings. Now I know better and am guilty of using this term a lot. It basically means mate, any old mate, not necessarily someone specific. Usually used when you have forgotten someone’s name.

Check out old mate and how he has positioned himself for hosing. Clever or lazy, you decide!
Check out old mate and how he has positioned himself for hosing. Clever or lazy, you decide!

I know this list isn’t extensive but in my 18 months or so in the mining world, these have been the terms that baffled me at the start and I now use extensively. I am constantly thinking of dates as whether I am on swing or on break. When I think back to certain points in time I break it up into however many breaks ago or that was a night shift or day shift break.

I guess because I use these terms extensively that means I am a proper miner, right?