He started his mining career at the Oaky Creek No 1 mine in Queensland as a miner and worked there for two and half years. He moved onto Crinum when it first kicked away in 1997 and was there for about five years, working as a deputy for the last two.
He started at Oaky North as a longwall coordinator, moved on to work as a development superintendent before heading to Oaky No.1 as the longwall superintendent. He completed a brief stint at the Southlands operation before moving back to ‘good old Queensland’ about six months ago.
ILN:What is your earliest mining memory?
BL: Shovelling the bootend of maingate 3 face line at Oaky Creek No.1. It was a good job.
ILN: What made you choose mining as a career?
BL: My father was involved in mining and he was able to get me a start, I have been in it ever since and have enjoyed it.
ILN: What was your favourite job in a coal mine?
BL: I enjoy working as a longwall coordinator, but shovelling that bootend had its perks though nobody came around and told you how to do your job better or wanted to take your shovel off you when things were going well.
ILN: What was your least favourite job?
BL: Haven’t really had one, although trying to set up a GAG engine on Christmas Day at Southlands rates as one of the things I would not like to do ever again.
ILN: Who, or what, has most influenced your mining career?
BL: There have been a lot of people who have influenced my career and given me guidance over the years some that come to mind are Gavin Taylor and Andy Mifflin who both gave me opportunities when others would not necessarily have.
Ed Trompak is probably the other, he spent a lot of time with me teaching me about Longwalls and life in general, I am only just starting to understand some of the things he was trying to teach me. I still miss him a lot.
ILN: What do you consider your best mining achievement?
I was fairly proud of that boot end I shovelled.
ILN: What do you see as being the greatest mining development during your career?
BL: After working with shields that had to be moved in with manual valves (ie operators pulling on handles) at Southlands you get a true appreciation for automation systems like the PM4.
ILN: Do you hold any mining records?
BL: I’ve been involved with some teams that have broken records over the years and it is always good fun but getting consistent good tonnes day in day out is what makes the difference at the end of the year.
ILN: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
BL: I would like to work overseas in a Longwall mine, I think there is still a lot to be learnt from some of the other Longwalling countries of the world.
ILN: What was your most embarrassing moment in a coal mine?
BL: Craig Manz (Longwall Mechanical Coordinator at Dendrobium) gave me a black eye and a busted lip when we were doing some boxing training. I believe he has told everybody in the coal industry twice to my never ending embarrassment.
ILN: What is your worst memory of coal mining?
BL: Watching an excavator fill in the portal of the Southlands with dirt to seal it up.
ILN: Do you think that the day of the fully automated remotely operated face is near?
BL: We could do it now if we were prepared to spend the money and the time getting it to work. Until we invent some form of Maintenance robot we will always have men working on the Longwall face if only to fix it.
ILN: What major improvements would you like to see on longwall operations?
BL: If we could get an aluminium type product into underground coal mines it would reduce a lot of the manual handling we are still doing on a day to day basis. This is becoming more important as Longwall equipment gets bigger and heavier every year.