Rigger crane driver Doug Grey worked on construction sites and mining developments around the Northern Territory for three decades before, at the height of the mining boom, Western Australia called in 2011.
The lure was contract jobs paying $200,000 a year in the Pilbara, back then on an iron ore high. “I sold my soul to the fly-in, fly-out [FIFO] game,” Doug said.
Around the same time, his son, Rob Grey, got his first mining job as a FIFO storeman at Glencore’s McArthur River, a zinc mine six hours south of Darwin that his father helped construct in the 1990s. “I ended up driving ore trucks. That was an awesome opportunity,” Rob said.
But by the end of 2015, commodity prices had fallen, Doug’s opportunities in the Pilbara dried up and, after five years of service, Rob was made redundant after Glencore slashed 535 jobs across Australia.
Doug’s advice to his son after they both arrived back at the family home in Darwin? “You’ve got to keep your chin up.”
‘No mine is a bottomless pit’
Doug first moved to Darwin in 1980 as a young farm labourer with “no skills” and eventually found his way onto construction and mining sites across the Territory.
“I was doing FIFO work before it was called FIFO work,” he said. “I first started in the game on Groote Eylandt with four months on and one week off.
“At McArthur River Mine during the construction in 1994 it was 10 weeks on and one week off. “It’s difficult when you’re a young married fella with little kids.
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