Surface mine plant operator


Surface mine plant operators control heavy-duty equipment such as excavators and dump trucks, often involving a high level of spatial awareness, to excavate, load and transport ore, raw mineral including sand, stone and clay and overburden at quarries and surface mines.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to surface mine plant operator:

quarry earth moving equipment operative
aggregate driver
surface miner equipment operator
surface mining heavy equipment driver
surface miner (heavy equipment)
quarry plant operator
tipper driver

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is generally required to work as a surface mine plant operator.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Surface mine plant operator is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Surface mine plant operator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to surface mine plant operator.

surface miner
underground miner
underground heavy equipment operator
mine control room operator
mining equipment mechanic

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of surface mine plant operator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of surface mine plant operator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

mine safety officer
desalination technician
gas processing plant control room operator
oil refinery control room operator
mine shift manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of surface mine plant operator.

  • Impact of geological factors on mining operations: Be aware of the impact of geological factors, such as faults and rock movements, on mining operations.
  • Excavation techniques: The methods to remove rock and soil, used in an excavation site and the associated risks.
  • Mechanics: Theoretical and practical applications of the science studying the action of displacements and forces on physical bodies to the development of machinery and mechanical devices.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of surface mine plant operator.

  • Inspect heavy surface mining equipment: Inspect heavy-duty surface mining machinery and equipment. Identify and report defects and abnormalities.
  • Troubleshoot: Identify operating problems, decide what to do about it and report accordingly.
  • Operate mining tools: Operate and maintain a wide range of hand-held and powered mining tools and equipment.
  • Make independent operating decisions: Make immediate operating decisions as necessary without reference to others, taking into account the circumstances and any relevant procedures and legislation. Determine alone which option is the best for a particular situation.
  • Deal with pressure from unexpected circumstances: Strive to achieve objectives despite the pressures arising from unexpected factors outside of your control.
  • Communicate mine equipment information: Communicate transparently and efficiently with mine production management and machine operators. Pass on any relevant information such as outages, efficiency and productivity of the equipment.
  • Address problems critically: Identify the strengths and weaknesses of various abstract, rational concepts, such as issues, opinions, and approaches related to a specific problematic situation in order to formulate solutions and alternative methods of tackling the situation.
  • React to events in time-critical environments: Monitor the situation around you and anticipate. Be ready to take quick and appropriate action in case of unexpected events.
  • Perform minor repairs to equipment: Conduct routine maintenance on equipment. Recognise and identify minor defects in equipment and make repairs if appropriate.
  • Conduct inter-shift communication: Communicate relevant information about the conditions in the workplace, progress, events, and potential problems to the workers in the next shift.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of surface mine plant operator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Operate bucket wheel excavator: Operate a bucket wheel excavator, a giant piece of mining machinery that uses a wheel or a chain equipped with buckets to scrape away material from the surface, then load it onto a conveyor belt.
  • Ensure compliance with safety legislation: Implement safety programmes to comply with national laws and legislation. Ensure that equipment and processes are compliant with safety regulations.
  • Drive vehicles: Be able to drive vehicles; have the approapriate type of driving license according to the type of motor vehicle used.
  • Operate bulldozer: Operate a tracked or wheeled bulldozer, a powerful piece of machinery equipped with a shovel-like blade used to move earth, rubble or other material over the ground.
  • Operate front loader: Operate a front loader, a vehicle equipped with a bucket used in mining for performing a wide range of small, quick operations where employing more specialised equipment would not be efficient.
  • Operate spreader: Operate spreaders, used in mining to spread removed overburden over a dump area in an efficient and orderly manner.
  • Operate dump truck: Operate articulated or rigid dump trucks used in mining operations for moving overburden or minerals. Apply strong spatial awareness in manipulating these large vehicles.
  • Operate excavator: Operate excavators used to dig materials from the surface and load them onto dump trucks.
  • Operate dragline: Use large dragline excavators to remove overburden above coal, lignite, and other minerals. Drag a bucket attached to a line over the surface to collect material and remove it.
  • Operate tractor: Operate a tractor, a heavy vehicle designed to deliver high torque at low speeds.
  • Operate shotcreter: Operate a shotcreter, a mechanised shotcrete spraying system used for ground support applications. Pneumatically project concrete at high velocity through a hose to cover a surface or fill holes for a variety of purposes.

ISCO group and title

8342 – Earthmoving and related plant operators

  1. Surface mine plant operator – ESCO
Last updated on August 23, 2022

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