Shining a light on mining engineers

engineers

It’s imperative mining engineers are registered as RPEQs.

The Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland is striving to improve the Queensland mining industry’s compliance with the Professional Engineers Act 2002.

Queensland is at the forefront of engineering standards and safety in Australia.

The state’s engineering industry has been regulated by the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland (BPEQ) since 1930.

BPEQ is an independent statutory body that safeguards the Queensland public and maintains the professional standards of engineers working across all industries, including mining.

One of BPEQ’s primary responsibilities is to register engineers to practise through the registered professional engineer Queensland (RPEQ) system.

BPEQ chair Andrew Seccombe explained the difference between an engineer and a RPEQ.

“To provide professional engineering services (in Queensland), you need to be registered. So that’s RPEQ,” he told Australian Mining. “You can work as an engineer without being a RPEQ yourself, but you have to be mentored and you have to have a direct supervisor who is a RPEQ and takes full professional responsibility for your work.

“Any design, construction, production, operation and maintenance work you do that requires or involves applying engineering principles is considered to be professional engineering.”

BPEQ chair Andrew Seccombe.

Engineering misconduct can have major consequences to health and safety, as well as project integrity, which is what makes registration so critical.

“It’s important to ensure industries understand there’s a difference between a RPEQ and someone that calls themself an ‘engineer’ and is not registered,” he said.

“RPEQs have done certain training and have qualifications, they’ve done a number of years in the industry under direct supervision of a RPEQ, and they’ve been assessed as qualified and competent in engineering.

“RPEQs continue to do development – CPD (continuing professional development) hours – to maintain a professional approach to their work.”

As part of the Professional Engineers Act 2002, engineers must legally be registered as a RPEQ when completing professional engineering services in or for Queensland.

“If you’re caught undertaking professional engineering services (and you are not a RPEQ), you will face prosecution,” Seccombe said.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a happy subject. But it is the law designed to protect the public and that includes people working on mine sites.”

Despite engineers’ importance to mining, the industry does not have the same representation of RPEQs as other sectors.

“To some extent, the mining industry has probably gone under the radar in regard to RPEQs,” Seccombe said.

“There’s always been a very big push towards those industries that have direct impact on the public.

“Those people designing and constructing buildings, bridges and roads, that’s where the bulk of our RPEQs are.

“The mining industry is something that we’re pushing into and my background is in this sector – I’ve been in mining for the last 12 years – so it’s a big priority for us at the moment.”

As BPEQ looks to increase its exposure within the mining industry, the organisation is conducting a series of registration roadshows in 2022, bringing wisdom and expertise on-site.

“Every year through our strategy days we identify engineering areas that need further attention and this year it is the mining industry,” Seccombe said.

“We are undertaking a roadshow up in central Queensland to talk to mines around Mackay and Moranbah.

“Later on in the year, we’ll move up a bit further to Townsville and Mount Isa. This is to increase the engagement with the mine sites and engineers, talk about the role of BPEQ and the importance of registration, and get more engineers registered and compliant.”

For a budding mining engineer keen to achieve their RPEQ, Seccombe said it’s important to document your work and experiences.

“The assessment process requires you to gather information and examples of things that you’ve done,” he said. “If you do that from the very start, it makes your assessment process a lot easier. 

“The other piece of advice is to take pride in the work you’re doing.

“A lot of the decisions you’re making as an engineer have direct impacts on the health and safety of people working in mining.

“Even for mine planning engineers who think they just run schedules and don’t have much design work, every time you run a schedule, that has some sort of impact on someone in the future, whether it’s measurable or not, and it often will involve or require professional engineering services.” 

This feature appeared in the April issue of Australian Mining.

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