What is your earliest mining memory?
I believe I was around 14 years old when I went on a visit to where my brother (Ian) was working – the Rylance Colliery at Ipswich. My father (Colin) came with us. The deputy was shot firing a face at the time.
What made you choose mining as a career?
I am a third generation miner. After completing my boilermaker apprenticeship an opportunity came up at New Hope Colliery. The money was better and as I had just married and bought a house we needed the money. I still need the money so not much has changed.
Who, or what, has most influenced your mining career?
In the early stages of my career it was my father and brother (Bruce/Rooster) but as I progressed through the years I was influenced by the people I worked with and met at Mines Rescue like Greg Rowen and Ron Barker and some of the managers I had the pleasure of working with such as Tim Jackson and Greg Hunt.
What do you consider your best mining achievement?
Completing my deputy studies, and then starting my own training organisation (Down Under Training) as this gave me an opportunity to help others understand how tasks should be completed and to try to help others not make the same mistakes that I and others have made over the years before training became mandatory and commonplace in the industry.
What do you see as being the greatest mining development during your career?
While I believe the greatest safety development has been training new starters so they understand what type of conditions they can expect, I also think the introduction of the new technology like top coal caving has reduced the amount of coal we are leaving behind thus assisting with spontaneous combustion control.
Do you hold any mining records?
Not really, but I did get a letter from North Goonyella congratulating me on not having any sickies over several years!
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
World peace, save the animals.
What was your most embarrassing moment in a coal mine?
The night we holed through into another roadway. But I should point out this happened back in the 1980s and I was the deputy at the time.
I was left in charge of two mines (on the same lease) during night shift so I was required to go from mine to mine for inspections to keep them both open.
While I was away inspecting the other mine the miner driver and crew was flitting to the next lift after finishing off the current lift (we were taking out the bottom coal).
I thought I would be back before they were ready to start this, but alas the inspection took longer than expected and by the time I arrived back they had started to taking bottoms in the new area.
The plan showed only minimal workings so you can only imagine our surprise when the miner started to slip away into the workings below! The miner driver jumped off and was standing up the top looking at his machine head down in the lower seam.
Had to take a lot of heat for this one. The crew was trying the do the right thing but still should have waited for my return before starting. No one was hurt and we were back mining within the one and a half hours.
What was your scariest time in a coal mine?
The day the roof came in while we were recovering No 6 mine. We were driving a new road that would give us access to the old workings.
We had just started bolting the roof (using water legs that attached to the miner to install the 6-inch bolts) when someone yelled out that the roof was moving. We scampered out of there. As we were running I heard someone calling out that they were pinned. I turned around and there was Brian still beside the miner.
We went back and lucky for us (especially Brian) the roof had settled and we quickly dug him out and carried him to safety. After treating him and taking him off to the surface we all went back to work and the deputy wrote it up in his report and we were asked what happened the next day (no cameras in those days).
Here is a short story that happened to one of my colleagues.
Sydie was the deputy and was required to pre-shift the mine before the men started.
Sydie was walking the transport road when he could hear the eerie screech and moaning noise. It stopped and he couldn’t see anything so he continued with his inspection a little while later. This time it sounded a lot closer. He heard it again but this time he could also hear scratching, so he started to investigate.
As he shone his light down the roadway he could see these very bright eyes staring at him.
These eyes were getting closer and closer as they approached they were also becoming taller. About 50 to 60ft away they appeared to be about eight to 10 feet tall. He also noticed that they seemed to be floating, (nothing supporting them) and all the time he was hearing this scratching noise.
Fixated on the noise and these eyes he started to move over the one side of the road away from the eyes and started to look for something to defend himself with.
You can only image his relief and surprise as he watched the two possums run past him hanging under the services pipes line.
Do you think that the day of the fully automated remotely operated face is near?
This question poses a dilemma, whereas having a fully automated continuous miner or longwall face would reduce personnel injuries, I still believe that people will be required to manage the face line (horizon, creep) or maintain the equipment which puts us in a Catch 22 situation. However there will be some form of remote operation in the future.
What major improvements would you like to see on longwall operations?
If the men could be prevented from having to enter the dusty zones during the cutting cycle. There have been major improvements in dust suppression over the past 20 years, but further research in to this area is needed. Also improving the horizon control to reduce the likelihood of roof fall.