My Mining Life – Alanna Efstathis

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Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Alanna Efstathis and I work as a process operator in the ammonia plant at Dyno Nobel Moranbah.

 When did you start in the mining industry and what was your first job?

I started in the mining/manufacturing industry at the very start of 2021 and the job I currently do was my first job in the industry.

How different is your job now to what you had wanted to be when you were a kid?

While I was at school I wanted to study engineering and I ended up going to Uni and completing a degree in Chemical Engineering and that helped open the door for the work I do now with Dyno. I never pictured I’d end up living in a mining town while I was studying in Brisbane. I had to google where Moranbah was when I was first offered the job, but it has and continues to be a wonderful experience understanding more about the industry every day and gaining great exposure for my future career path.

What does a usual day at work look like?

I get to work around 5:20 in the morning or afternoon depending if I’m on day or night shift and generally our day starts after pre-start, a quick catch up with the crew and a coffee. I work an even time 5/4/4/5 roster and my role involves the day-to-day operation of the ammonia plant, sampling, safety improvements, conditioning monitoring and trend analysis and responding to planned shutdowns, isolating for planned maintenance works, problem solving and responding to unforeseen events. I am training now to be an ammonia DCS panel operator, so whenever I can I like to sit on our plant simulator which enables me to follow procedures for start-ups, shutdowns and unexpected trips in a consequence free environment preparing me for working on the live plant in the near future. Safety is the first thing I always consider no matter what the job is, and everyone at the plant takes it seriously.

What is the best thing about your job?

The learning opportunities it has provided me as a young graduate in the industry and the people I get to spend my time with every day. I don’t have any family here in Moranbah, so I’ve found that my work family is always looking out for me and we’re always having a laugh together.

The worst thing?

Even after a few years of doing shift work, I still really don’t do well with the early wake ups.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Coming from an engineering background and being thrown into an operations crew straight out of Uni provided its challenges I didn’t even realise I was going to face at the time. The hands-on work has been so beneficial for my learning and understanding, but there are physical limitations to what I can do in the plant as opposed to my male coworkers. But if you hook in and have a go at getting a task done, there’s always someone around to help you out if you need it. 

What was your proudest achievement?

I’m proud of how much confidence I have gained on site compared to where I started. I still have so much to learn, but I have come a long way since I was that girl fresh out of Brisbane in a bright orange shirt looking around the plant thinking I would never understand what all these unit operations and vessels do. But with time and support from my crew, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in the work I do.

What’s something about your job that would surprise people?

Generally, I find that anyone who asks what I do for work doesn’t quite understand what being an operator at the Dyno ammonium nitrate plant entails. We don’t blow things up and I don’t drive trucks like operators do in the mines. We operate the process plant, which is an important job because we always ensure safe and reliable operation.

What’s a funny story about work that you can tell?

When I was still quite new on site, I was walking through the control room and my line leader introduced me to a man who I thought was a new starter as an operator. I started asking him questions about where he’d come from and what he used to do only to find out he’s the VP of Australian Manufacturing and everyone on site knows him except me apparently.

What do you do in your downtime?

I genuinely enjoy my days off in Moranbah enjoying local events and catching up with friends. We love to get away to the rodeos and races in the surrounding towns, or a weekend away camping is always fun.

The mining industry gets its fair share of criticism. What is your view of the industry and the impact that it has?

I believe this industry offers incredible opportunities for individuals and families and living in a town like Moranbah shows how important it is to keep livelihoods and the economy going. I didn’t see myself working in the industry when I was still studying, but when the opportunity presented itself and I took it I am very grateful for what it has offered me in terms of lifestyle and experience inside and out of work.

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