Finding work-life balance in the mining industry

Mike Wood and family.

Working on a remote site hundreds — sometimes thousands — of kilometres from family can put a strain on relationships, that’s for sure. So what are the alternatives?

Senior electrical engineer Mike Wood spoke about his decision to swap the hot Northern Territory for a much cooler lifestyle with excellent career prospects in the thriving regional centre of Parkes in Central New South Wales.

“Northparkes Mines gave me and my partner the opportunity to both live and work in the same place,” Mike said. “We were up in the Northern Territory living some two-and-a-half hours away from each other, so we were doing a lot of commuting on weekends and on breaks. It was wearing a bit thin.”

Their decision to move was to spend more time together.

The CMOC-Northparkes gold and copper operation welcomed not just Mike into their team, but also his partner Michelle with a position in accounts payable. That was eight years ago and since then they have started a beautiful family and bought their home on two acres, just outside town, with horses next door for their girls, now aged three and six, to pat.

“Real estate was so much cheaper than in Darwin. We looked at properties on 30 acres to nice places in town and they were all in our budget,” Mike said. “We got to know the agents who’d say, ‘There’s a place you might like — the back door’s open, just go and have a look.’

“There’s a real culture of trust here. When we went to buy bedside lamps they told us to take them home and bring them back in a week if we didn’t like them!”

Career wise, progression has been rapid for Mike. “One of the first things I did here was develop an electrical controls and systems team, hiring more engineers,” he said.

Mike is now in middle management after being offered the opportunity to manage Sustaining Capital Projects. “Now I manage a multi-disciplined team and a portfolio of projects that total around $25 million,” Mike said. “I deliver in-house benefits like cost saving and consistent quality outcomes with a safety focus, such as the $1.5 million arc flash hazard prevention initiative.”

There’s plenty of time for fun too. Mike runs the Northparkes annual charity golf day and loves the lifestyle, saying, “Living and working in Parkes, coming home every night and spending time with my family. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Michelle agreed, saying, “Parkes was basically all our dreams come true and Mike is home every night to be part of that and that’s the most important thing for me. And Parkes and Northparkes were able to give us that.”

“There are plenty of opportunities here,” Mike said. “It’s a great place for a career and it’s a great place to live. You can really make your mark and make a difference.”

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