@TheCoalface chats to father and son Hunter Valley coal
miners, Merv and Jade Charnock to find out how time at
the Coalface has changed.
What year did you both get your start in the mines, and what some of
the changes since you started?
Merv: I started underground in 1967 when we used to work with horses and
canaries. The canaries were an early warning system for the amount of toxic
gas in the air because it would kill the bird before it affected the miners. Most
of the work was manual and we'd work three, eight-hour shifts, five days a
week, and shut down for holidays. Nowadays, there's more high-tech
machinery, and the shift patterns are different, but the basic job of extracting
coal is still the same.
Jade: I started my mining career in 2001 as a trade’s assistant in the
washeries. Unlike my old man who was underground at Wambo I work in
open cut at Ravensworth. Technology has changed dramatically since I've
worked in the industry, with GPS, machine tracking and other monitoring
systems being introduced. There's a bigger focus on the environment and
community which means minimising dust and noise and completing quality
You must see a lot of people from all walks of life working in the
industry these days?
Jade: There's much more diversity in the work place these days, but in my
dad's time mining was a male orientated career. Now I work with women and
men, and we all have many different backgrounds and skills sets that
contribute positively to the industry.
What do you love most about being a coal miner?
Merv: Everyone looked out for each other. You had too, because it was
dangerous work. I really enjoyed the mate-ship that was around in the early
days. Compared to what it used to be, I guess it's a bit easier to do the work,
with the help of technology and machinery, but there's more paperwork!
Jade: Mining has supplied my family every opportunity to have a great life. I
love that there are no boundaries for progressing your career if you're
determined. I like knowing that we provide the world with a much needed
resource, but then we are able to rehabilitate the land back to it's original state
for productive use in the future.