Thiess Graduate Profile Image- Harry

Harry Kaveney

University of Wollongong
Mining Engineer Graduate, Thiess
Harry Kaveney studied a Bachelor of Mining and Civil Engineering at the University of Wollongong in 2018 and is now a Mining Engineer Graduate at Thiess.

What's your job about?

I work in the Technical Services team for Thiess at the Mt Pleasant Operation.

I currently work in short-term planning, which is the field of mining engineering that’s responsible for design, scheduling and implementation of the mine plan. A typical week involves designing dig sequencing plans for the excavators, haul roads, ramps, waste dumps, and areas of rehabilitation. 

Towards the end of the week, these designs are transferred into GPS files which can be interpreted by the excavators, dozers and graders. My other responsibility is to work with the team to develop the weekly mine plan that details the operational strategy for the coming week. To do this, I collaborate with the mining engineer, drill & blast engineer, geologist, and surveyor. 

Several times a week I drive around and inspect the pit with the Mine Manager, supervisors and mining engineer. This pit inspection allows us to identify issues that may result in changes to the schedule, potential hazards and further design requirements to run a successful operation.

One thing I find exciting about my job is being present through all phases of the operation; from design and construction to implementation. I can see the full life cycle and understand how each impacts the operation technically, practically, and financially, and identify opportunities for innovation and improvement.

Harry at the work site

What's your background?

I’m originally from a sheep farm in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, near Yaas. I love the outdoors and spent most of my childhood on the farm riding dirt bikes, working with sheep and playing rugby union.

I went to school in Canberra and completed my Bachelor of Mining and Civil Engineering at the University of Wollongong. My passion for travelling and experiencing different cultures led me to enrol in a semester exchange program during the second year of my degree. My seven months studying in Munich helped broaden my view of the world and understand engineering as a global career option. 

In my fourth year of study, I completed a vacation program at a Lithium mine in Western Australia. I worked on a blast crew where I obtained an explosives handling license.  This experience assisted my application for the Thiess scholarship program during my fifth year. I was lucky to be accepted and began work in Central Queensland in November 2017. 

In 2018, I was offered part-time work at Thiess in the Hunter Valley while I completed my final semester of study. It was a great development opportunity that set me up well for the start of my graduate program.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

My job requires an engineering degree but is not limited to mining. Engineers of different backgrounds, particularly civil and geotechnical engineers, often go into mining engineering roles.

Some of the skills required to work in my field are: 

  • Problem-solving: In mining, the local environment is always changing; every week thousands of cubic meters of material is moved. There are many challenges associated with this that require an analytical mindset to develop the most practical and financially suitable plan.
  • Mining proficiency: Having an understanding of the mining process and the different methods associated are crucial for accurate implementation of the mine plan. It’s also valuable to have an understanding of the financial implications relating to a particular method of mining.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

What I love most about my job is how I can have a direct impact on the layout and design of the mine.

It’s incredibly rewarding to watch an excavator dig the design you made, or watch a ramp develop based on your design. These components often become a permanent structure in the mine.

Another highlight of being a graduate mining engineer is the opportunities you receive. I have the opportunity to work all over Australia, and potentially overseas in different roles and fields.

What are the limitations of your job?

The biggest challenge for engineers in the mining industry would be working in isolated locations. It can be difficult being away from family and friends. It is important to make an effort to socialise with your work colleagues and other graduates in your area.

I think it depends heavily on your own experiences and what industry interests you. Personally, I think it’s a great way to travel and see the country. The graduate program rotates you to a different site every eight months; you could be in the Hunter Valley one moment and a few hours from the Whitsunday Islands the next.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Travel and be open to new experiences while you are studying. Take the opportunity to go on exchange if you can. It’s much harder to do these sorts of things later on.
  • Seek vacation work from an early stage in your studies; these programs are specifically set up to take on inexperienced students. Many mining companies take on people anywhere from first to final year of study. Be eager and willing to learn.
  • Don’t rush. It’s important to go into a field that you’re interested in and passionate about. Spend time researching and thinking about what you would like to do. If it means taking a gap year to work and figure it out, go for it! You’ll be better off and happier in the long run.