A pint with Glen Lewis

NuCoal Resources chief exectuive officer Glen Lewis is a big believer in safety and education and is living proof that you can start at the bottom of the ladder and work your way up. He also sees opportunities for training in the Hunter Valley. He spoke to Lou Caruana about his vision for coal mining in the Hunter.
A pint with Glen Lewis A pint with Glen Lewis A pint with Glen Lewis A pint with Glen Lewis A pint with Glen Lewis

NuCoal managing director Glen Lewis

Lou Caruana

Published in the June 2011 Australian Longwall Magazine

AL: So, are you a local boy?

GL: Not that I tell everyone, but I am born and bred in Cessnock which has a significant coal mining history and my family originally comes from Wales and were miners over there and then when they came to Australia. I stayed in Cessnock for about 23 years then started to move around areas to get promoted, so have now lived out of Cessnock longer than I have lived there (the scar has almost healed).

AL: What are the mines you have worked at and what are some of the positions you have held?

GL: I commenced in 1980 at Munmorah State Mine as an apprentice electrician and went to Liddell State Mine when I came out of my apprenticeship in 1983. I went on to become a deputy at that mine then the longwall co-ordinator once the longwall was installed in 1986. I then had the opportunity to go to Ulan as a shift undermanager which was a great experience as they held many mining records around that time and the workforce was exceptional. Over the next 10 years I moved around either being promoted or going to new mines during development to gain that invaluable experience – Wallarah with the Flexible Conveyor Train (FCT), United as the drifts were being driven, Dartbrook as we employed the entire workforce and then back to Wallarah as undermanager in charge. I gained my Managers Certificate in 1997 and was employed at Cumnock (which was located on the site of the original Liddell State Mine) as mine manager which is where I commenced my 11 years working with Xstrata through an exceptional growth phase of a significant mining company.

AL: Do you still keep in contact with some of your old Xstrata mates?

GL: Yes, a number of them are very good friends of mine so we keep in touch fairly frequently. In addition, a few of them applied for recent positions with NuCoal so they are now working with me again which certainly helps as we continue to expand the business.

AL: The local rugby league team has been snapped up by a local coal miner so what’s next on your acquisition list?

GL: I think I will leave the sporting area to others more qualified than me and just focus on continuing to expand the NuCoal asset portfolio across NSW. While I am an underground miner to the core, I have learnt over the years that every longwall needs risk mitigation so I wouldn’t mind adding a nice open cut to the stable to balance therisk profile.

AL: Does NuCoal take the skills shortage seriously?

GL: NuCoal takes it extremely seriously as it is the foundation, which is why the Doyles Creek Underground Mine and Training School has been built. Over the next decade a significant portion of the underground coal sector, my generation, will retire and with that take an enormous amount of knowledge from over the past three decades. The skills shortage isn’t only about bums on seats but also the knowledge that has been gained over many years of good and bad news stories. My personal opinion is that we need to correctly train the future generations as there are a number of things that we now do in the industry, based on historic tragedies including gas and roof falls, that they need to fully understand, as doing things just because you are told isn’t as effective as doing things because you fully understand the downside of getting it wrong.

AL: Where is all the wisdom coming from at your underground training school at Doyles Creek?

GL: We aim to employ a number of very experienced “mentors” that can assist impart their knowledge to the trainees. I have been fortunate to work with a great deal of excellent miners in my career and I am hopeful that I can encourage a few of them to work with us to make the training mine a significant learning cornerstone of the industry.

AL: Would you recommend a career in coal mining to young people today?

GL: Most definitely. The industry has been exceptional to me. I think it is an industry where you can go as far as your dreams and initiative allow. The opportunities are endless and hopefully NSW will get the OHS legislation sorted out under the coalition government so more people are prepared to be supervisors without the fear of unreasonable treatment in the event of an incident.

AL: Do you think enough has been done about safety underground or do you think Australia has a mining industry with a world class safety reputation?

GL: I think that we are one of the world leaders in safety but you can never do enough in this area. We have a history of incidents that made the industry learn and implement systems to protect people and assets over many years so while we are leaders, we can’t take our eye off the goal of “Zero Harm”

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