Tahnee Bensen loves being active and has spent her life in gyms. Her love of sport drew her to a job running gyms and training sessions in FIFO mining villages. She started running pre-work stretches for the processing teams at Prominent Hill, looked around and thought, “this is a whole new world”.
That was the beginning of a completely different career path for her.
Moving into mining
Tahnee knows the mining industry, having worked for ten years with a company that manages camp facilities. Her focus has been gyms and aviation – she would direct planes as they flew into the small FIFO airports.
She started running pre-start stretches onsite to help reduce manual handling injuries for people on shift for OZ Minerals and became interested in how the plant worked.
I’d never gone to the mine before. I’d always been in the village. The Superintendent met me, and during the site tour I asked, ‘Do you get paid to walk up and down these stairs?’ I looked at the plant and thought that’s a whole new world.
When a position for a Process Technician opened up, Tahnee, “decided to apply even though I didn’t know anything about processing. It was impulsive, but I was training some of the guys who worked in processing and they had talked about their day to day. I decided to give it a go and see where it took me”.
Tahnee got the role, joined OZ Minerals as a ‘green hat’ at Prominent Hill and worked her way up to Level 2 (there are four levels in Processing). At the end of last year, she transferred to a new site at Carrapateena to learn about commissioning, saying, “You learn a lot from starting on day one of the plant itself, before it’s even running. The plant wasn’t even built when I arrived”. The site is now functional, and Tahnee is excited about the future and the many opportunities to learn.
Facing fears and shifting gears
It could have been daunting to shift from a decade-long career in fitness to an area she knew nothing about, but Tahnee explains, “I love the physical side of things and knew the job would be physical. As long as you’ve got some passion you can adapt to anything”.
Reflecting on what she learned during her career transition, Tahnee shares:
- Embrace change. “Be open to change and embrace what seems scary. I didn’t even know what a valve was when I walked in.”
- Maintain your passion. “Keep who you are and what you love but use the opportunity to take it to a new level. As I walked through the plant and thought ‘I don’t know anything’, I said to myself, ‘well, there’s a flight of stairs. Run up them, and you’ll feel better’.”
- Opportunities create opportunities. “This has opened a whole new world to me. I’m still learning about processing, and I’ve opened up metals, engineering, maintenance. There are literally 30 career paths that I could now take, and the door is already half-open.”
The myriad of future opportunities is something Tahnee loves about the company. “OZ constantly say if you want to do something else they’ll support you on any road you want to walk down. I do a small fraction of what the company is capable of. OZ has a million things to offer me.”
I was scared to make this change, but taking that risk and giving it a go has the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It’s the best company I’ve ever worked for in my life. They’re so supportive. They will always do what they can to make things happen for you.
How flexibility is possible for shift workers
OZ Minerals are forward-thinking in their approach to flexibility. Shift and operational workers are often excluded from flexible work options since they have to be onsite to perform their duties. But at OZ, they’re innovative in their thinking and open to individual approaches to make things possible.
Tahnee works shifts that go eight days on, six days off, seven nights on, finishing the rotation with seven nights off. When COVID hit they quickly adjusted the order to two weeks on then two weeks off to keep crews together.
Now that things onsite are a bit more back to normal, anyone who wants to retain the COVID roster can. Additionally, if someone wants to create a personalised roster (for example, three days on, three days off), then they just need to find a ‘buddy’ at the same level who wants the same roster, and they can work their own individual shift rotation.
Tahnee enthuses, “I’ve never known a company like it. You just need an idea and a plan, and OZ will work with you to make it happen. I had two step-children for six years, and I could always make sure my weekend at home was when I had them”.
Office-based staff can work from the site or from Adelaide, and if they don’t need to fly to be on the mine site, they can work from home. “They’re happy for you to adapt to what you want to do.”
Staff at OZ are supported in writing a Work - Life Plan, which provides a formal opportunity to discuss flexible work and adjusting shift rosters. Tahnee is confident that, “if I went to them and asked for a roster change then they would support me”.
A day in the life onsite
Tahnee works in two areas, “the mills, where we grind minerals, and the tail storage facilities, where we process our water to revert it back to the plant. There’s a dam 10km from the plant. All the water we use goes out to the dam and then gets pumped back, so we recycle and reuse water”.
A Process Technician typically spends time checking “the grinding circuit. Underground gives us rocks that we turn into copper. It goes through two mills, with pumps and valves along the way. We check them, monitor feed pumps and conveyor belts, check density levels and do general housekeeping to make sure the place is clean. Out at the dam, I make sure there’s no mud coming back through the pipes, only water”.
It is a very active, physical job, which is why I love it. I also love understanding a whole new world and learning the technical side of how a plant runs.
With a supportive team, so much to learn, and a culture that promotes diversity, flexibility and collaboration, Tahnee is excited about all the opportunities that await her at OZ Minerals.
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About the author
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