Ankha Erdenebat is a driller's helper who’s been doing fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) in Canada for the past two years. Here he offers an insight into what newcomers can expect.
Q: How did you come to be doing fly-in, fly-out (FIFO)?
A: I'm from Mongolia and a few years ago met my Australian wife through work over there. We were both employed by the same Canadian-owned drilling exploration company, and not long after we got married they offered us a move here for work. That's how I became a FIFO worker.
Q: What surprised you most about being away on site?
A: Learning how to manage my time was tough. There is very limited free time, so you need to be organised.
Q: What does your job involve?
A: I’m a driller’s helper and we work underground. It’s not an easy job – you have to be fit as there is lots of manual handling and lifting. It's very dark with little visibility and limited space to work.
Q: What’s your average day like on site?
A: When you work in the field, the shifts are usually 12 hours. My day starts by getting up really early in the morning – the company vehicle arrives and we drive to the mine site. First there’s a daily safety meeting and I get my work tasks from the foreman. Then the fun starts: drilling.
After long hours of hard work, you get back to your place and either call or Skype the family and then it’s bedtime.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone who’s doing FIFO for the first time?
A: To any first timers out there, I’d say you will get used to it eventually. I know that it’s not easy to be away from your family. But stay strong and think about the fact you’re working for your family and your children. Pay attention to your work and learn as much as you can. Also contact your family regularly.
Q: How do you stay in touch with your family when you’re away?
A: Usually by phone and the internet. Some areas have no cell phone coverage but the company provides phone and internet access. If you have Skype or Yahoo Messenger, you can easily stay in touch. I would say Skype is the best way to communicate.
Q: How can families best support FIFO workers?
A: When you are based out in the field or in a small mining town, you can get bored, lonely, sick and stressed out. And then all kinds of trouble can occur. Families can support us by understanding how hard it can be emotionally and offering encouragement.
My wife very much knows and understands about FIFO, and she is an awesome supporter of my work and life.
Q: What are the best and worst things about FIFO?
A: The worst thing is being away from family, children and friends. Sometimes you miss out on special occasions, like your child’s birthday or things like that.
The best thing is that after a long roster you get to go home to your family – I get two weeks which is a nice long break.
If you work in mining, oil or gas, we'd love to hear from you! Tell us your story...