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Job Sheet: Quarry Worker

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Job title: Quarry Worker

Job description:

Quarrying is the way of extracting rock or minerals from the Earth's surface using machine digging and controlled blasting.

Nearly 46 million tonnes of rock, sand, and aggregate worth over $557M are produced annually for roading and construction. Rocks for making concrete and building roads account for 75% of all the rock quarried in the country.

Quarry workers remove the rock, minerals and stone from a quarry site and then usually process them further into roading or construction aggregate, industrial or agricultural lime, or into a commercial ingredient for a product such as paint, adhesive or glass.

Quarry workers carry out a broad range of activities:

- Operating a variety of different plant and machinery
- Driving heavy vehicles including excavators, loaders, dump trucks and bulldozers
- Drilling holes and placing explosives for blasting (shotfiring)
- Carrying out maintenance activities on machinery and vehicles
- Stockpiling 
- Operating weighbridges
- Welding

Quarrying operations vary in size, from small two-person enterprises up to large opencast sites. There are good job opportunities across all sectors of the aggregates industry due to several new quarrying projects in New Zealand, infrastructure requirements and an international demand for raw materials.

Quarry workers need to be reasonably fit with a strong back, as many of the tasks in a quarry are physically demanding. Quarry workers must be safety-conscious and have common sense as quarries can be dangerous places to work. They must be able to work independently and in a team, and follow instructions.

Qualifications required/age restrictions:

There are no specific secondary education requirements to enter the industry, although School Certificate or NCEA equivalent English and maths are helpful. A heavy vehicle licence would also be an advantage.

Almost all skills are learned on the job, and national qualifications can be achieved via on-the-job training through EXITO - the Extractive Industries Training Organisation.

EXITO Modern Apprenticeships in Quarrying are available to people aged 16-21 working in the industry. This enables young people to achieve a National Certificate in Extractive Industries while they are working on the job, so they can earn while they learn.

Progressing to a Quarry Manager position requires an appropriate Certificate of Competence (CoC), also known as an A Grade or B Grade Certificate or 'ticket'. An A Grade Quarry Manager Certificate is required for those managing more than 5 people, while a B Grade is for Quarry Managers responsible for fewer than 5 people.

To work at a quarry as a truck driver or an earthmoving machine operator you need to have a heavy vehicle license (classes 2-5, depending on the vehicle).

Training costs:

As training for national qualifications is done mostly on the job, there is generally no cost to the trainee.  The cost of the training is usually paid by the company, and training subsidies are available from EXITO.

Location of job:

Opportunities in quarrying exist across New Zealand. Most of quarries in Northland, Auckland and Waikato are hard rock aggregate, while those in the South Island are predominantly gravel and sand pits. The job involves mostly working outdoors.

Career path:

Working in the Quarrying industry offers many opportunities for progression.

Quarry workers usually start off driving trucks, working up to operating machinery and crushing plants. Gaining experience in all aspects of the operation prepares workers for progression opportunities which include: 
- moving into related jobs; 
- working for bigger operations; 
- becoming a supervisor, trainer or Quarry Manager positions; 
- working as a self-employed consultant.

Anyone working in the industry can participate in industry training, and work towards a range of national qualifications, which include National Certificates and Diplomas across a range of process areas. Training towards national qualifications is largely achieved through on-the-job training so employees can earn while they learn.

There are several EXITO National Certificates and Diplomas in the Extractive Industries at varying levels covering Core Skills, Operations, Supervision, Site Management and Management. These cover a range of process areas including:

Surface Extraction
Lime Milling
Mineral Processing
Land Operations Using Explosives
Shot Firing
Construction Blasting

Salary range:

Pay varies, but quarry workers usually earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, depending on experience, quarry size and level of responsibility. Quarry managers earn between $45,000 and $70,000 a year. Around 10% of workers in the industry earn more than $70,000.

Other careers this profession could lead to:

There are a number of career pathways available within the Quarrying industry and progression prospects include supervisory and management positions as well as owner-operator opportunities. Some jobs, such as plant, machinery and heavy vehicle operators will have many opportunities to transfer into other industries requiring similar skill sets eg mining, construction, resource recovery. 

Tips on how to increase the chances of successfully entering this industry:

Having a mechanical aptitude and an interest in machinery will stand people in good stead for entering this industry.  People who are good at computer games are usually good at operating diggers and machinery.

Employers look for enthusiasm, a good practical outlook and a team fit when recruiting staff.

Experience driving heavy vehicles or working with earthmoving machinery is useful, as is experience maintaining them. Any work that involves manual labour, such as mining, or building construction, can also be helpful.

Places/websites to source information about this job:

Any other relevant points:

Demand may grow further in the future, as recent studies by the Department of Labour show that the New Zealand mining and quarrying industry has an ageing workforce, with the dominant age group is between 40 and 45 years. The Modern Apprenticeship Scheme was introduced in an effort to attract young people into the industry.