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Quarry Operative

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Quarry Operative

The Work

As a quarry operative you would excavate rock and minerals from quarries or opencast mines, before processing them to make products for industry such as:

  • limestone for cement production
  • rock chippings, sand and gravel (known as 'aggregates') for construction and road building
  • clay for brick-making
  • slate for roofing.

Your duties would include:

  • working with heavy plant machinery such as excavators, draglines and cranes
  • operating processing equipment like rock crushers and stone graders
  • setting up and using drilling equipment
  • carrying out maintenance on vehicles and machinery
  • setting and detonating explosives, known as 'shotfiring'
  • transporting materials with large tipper and dumper trucks. ;

Hours and Environment

You could expect to work around 37 to 40 hours a week, usually on a shift system. Overtime may be available.

The job is physically demanding and some tasks could be dangerous. Your employer would normally provide you with protective clothing.

You may have to travel some distance to work every day as quarry sites are usually in rural areas.

Skills and Interests

  • a good level of fitness
  • an understanding of safe working practices
  • practical skills, especially for working with machinery
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • the ability to follow spoken and written instructions
  • good maths skills to work out quantities of materials.


You don't usually need qualifications to find work as a quarry operative, but some experience of construction, mining or mobile plant machinery operation could be useful when looking for a job.

A relevant driving licence, for example LGV or plant operators licence, may also give you an advantage.

You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme with a construction company or quarrying firm. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information, visit

For more details about working in the quarrying industry, see the Careers in Quarrying website.


Once you are working, you could take work-based qualifications from the Mineral Products Qualifications Council (MPQC until recently known as EMP Awarding Body).

The exact qualification you took would depend on your level of responsibility, but could include:

  • Level 3 Certificate and Diploma in the Extractives and Mineral Processing Industries
  • NVQ levels 1-3 in Processing Operations for the Extractive and Minerals Processing Industries operating and maintaining machinery
  • NVQ Level 2 in Drilling Operations (Extractives) options in setting up equipment, drilling plans and maintenance
  • NVQ Level 2 in Plant Operations (Extractives) includes excavating machinery, lifting and transferring loads, and working with rail plant
  • NVQ Level 3 in Blasting Operations Level 3 for working with explosives.

Visit the MPQC website (Skills Centre section) for a list of approved training centres offering the above qualifications, plus specialised short training courses, such as:

  • risk assessment and hazards
  • safety passport
  • quarry regulations
  • plant operator competence scheme and plant instructor training.


You can find a list of potential employers in the contacts section of the Mineral Products Association website.

There is also a limited number of jobs on coastal dredgers, mainly working along the east and south-east coasts and in the Bristol Channel. These supply sand and gravel to the construction industry.

With experience, you could progress to jobs in supervisory management, health and safety inspection, machine and plant maintenance, laboratory work testing site samples, or quality control.

Annual Income

  • Trainee operatives can earn around 12,000 a year.
  • With experience, this can rise to between 17,000 and 23,000.
  • Operatives with supervisory duties can earn up to 28,000 a year.

Overtime, shift pay and bonuses may increase these amounts.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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