King started at the NSW Kemira Colliery as a mining cadet in the Federation in 1976 and was there for five years. “My most enjoyable job during this period was miner driving in Pillar extraction,” King recalled.
He started work as a deputy at Kemira in September 1980 and worked up to and during the “16 day Sit In” of October, 1982. He transferred to Old Bulli Colliery after Kemira was scaled down and worked for about 12 months as safety officer and later shift undermanager until the mine closed in 1987.
After a period at Tower Colliery as a shift undermanager he returned to Kemira in January 1988 where it had been decided to install a longwall for the first time in the Wongawilli No. 3 seam. King worked there as longwall undermanager for three years.
In 1991 the Kemira equipment was transferred to Tower Colliery and so was King, working as longwall undermanager from 1991 to 1994.
“In January of 1995 I returned to the No.3 seam. New roof supports had been purchased for Elouera Colliery (a mine formed by the merger of the old Wongawilli and Nebo mines). One of my first tasks was to oversee these supports installed into a new longwall block.”
King is married to Lisa and they have three children. He lists as hobbies following his children’s sports, Rugby Union, surfing and gardening.
ILN: What made you choose mining as a career?
DK: My “male modelling” career did not go as well as I thought so mining was the next best thing.
ILN: What was your favourite job in a coal mine?
DK: There have been quite a few but one that quickly comes to mind was the installation of the new longwall we installed at Kemira Colliery in 1988. It was a huge learning curve for me and almost everyone else on the team as this was the first longwall most of us had ever been involved with.
ILN: What was your least favourite job?
DK: Paperwork and budget time !!
ILN: Who, or what, has most influenced your mining career?
DK: Col Weatherstone. Col was the Mine Manager at Kemira during the introduction of the first longwall in the No.3 seam in the late 80’s as I mentioned before. It was with his guidance that the Kemira longwall was a success. He was an excellent manager of people and gave us clear direction and objectives. I found that he would always remain calm during difficult situations and this “level headedness” helped calm and reassure others. He had the respect of all the workforce, and great sense of humour and it was a pleasure to work with him. He later went on to become the head of BHP Illawarra Coal and now I believe he is head of the Coated Products Division.
ILN: What do you consider your best mining achievement?
DK: I have had some difficult mining situations to deal with over the years but thankfully I have managed to manoeuvre through them without any major injuries to my people.
ILN: Do you hold any mining records?
DK: Yes. I hold the record for being the best looking longwall coordinator in NSW.
ILN: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
DK: Yes ...........To play for the Wallabies. Although I might have left my run a bit late.
ILN: What was your scariest time in a coal mine?
DK: The scariest moment I can recall was when I was knocked unconscious by a 2 inch bull hose couple that had been accidentally uncoupled by an “apprentice fitter”. The air hose was fully pressurised and was being uncoupled, without my knowledge, about 20m away from me.
As I approached the area there was suddenly a load noise and an enormous cloud of coal dust. The hose coupling, which I could not see, flew wildly around and struck me on the jaw. As I was falling to the ground, rushing through my mind in the split second before losing consciousness, was the thought that this was it. I truly thought that there had been an explosion and we were all going to die.
ILN: What was your most embarrassing moment in a coal mine?
DK: One of many embarrassing moments I can recall was when I returned to the mine site from hospital after being stitched up following the hose coupling accident. That was quite a day. Much to the delight of the surface crew I alighted from the taxi with my dirty clothes tucked under my arm in a plastic bag that a disgusted nurse had packed up for me. I had nothing on but the smallest theatre gown ever used in the Illawarra tied up loosely at the back.
It was a long walk to the bathroom. I quickly got changed and went looking for that “apprentice fitter”
ILN: What is your worst memory of coal mining?
DK: Attending two accident sites where fatalities had occurred. Both involved rail mounted vehicles.