Coal miners showing real courage fighting bush fires

BUSH fires bring out the best in the Australian character – mateship, volunteering, and support for your neighbour. These are also qualities that are needed in a coal mine so it is not surprising that there are many unsung heroes fighting these fires who are coal miners.
Coal miners showing real courage fighting bush fires Coal miners showing real courage fighting bush fires Coal miners showing real courage fighting bush fires Coal miners showing real courage fighting bush fires Coal miners showing real courage fighting bush fires

The fires that have engulfed the eastern seaboard have come perilously close to working coal mines and their surrounding communities.

Flames came within about 200 metres of the pit at Centennial Coal's Springvale mine in New South Wales and production stopped due to poor air quality from bushfire smoke underground.

Fires have also come close to Centennial's Angus Place Colliery, which is on care and maintenance, and the Clarence colliery.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific head of campaigns Jamie Hanson took an alarmist approach to the risk of fire to the coal at Mount Piper power station and the Springvale mine.

"If either of these catch fire they will likely burn for weeks, emitting extremely toxic fumes, which will aggravate the already dangerous levels of air pollution across NSW," Hanson said.

Meanwhile, coal mine workers were out doing the brave work and actually fighting fires.  

Springvale's Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union lodge president Ben Smith said many members had been involved in firefighting during the bush fires.

"We've had blokes constantly off fighting fires across the last three months, with the Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire Rescue," he said.

"They have a lot of skills that they can bring to firefighting. They are mines rescue trained - each pit has individual fire teams - and mine operators are out on fire rescue bulldozers pushing in containment lines. They all pitch in where they can."

Smith is part of the local fire brigade at Wallerawang.

He was out on the fire truck as fires came close to the town.

Southwestern district president Graeme Osborne said while the major employers were supportive of mineworkers taking paid time off to fight fires, some contractors had refused to pay mineworkers.

"The fire fighters' efforts are also protecting the mine assets," Osborne said.

"They are doing an incredible job for the whole community."

Coal mining companies are also coming to the assistance of firefighters with South32, which has a large footprint in the fire ravaged south coast of NSW, donating $500,000 to the Australian Red Cross in support of bushfire disaster relief.

South32 CEO Graham Kerr said this brought its total donations to organisations dealing with the crisis to $1 million since November.

The miner has also made in-kind donations of face masks for smoke protection and across Australia many of its staff have been involved in raising funds and volunteering to support the effort.

Hogsback reckons coal miners have shown they are an important part of the community in this bushfire crisis by getting on with the job of saving property and lives.