The NSW Minerals Council’s 2019 Health, Safety, Environment and Community Conference Awards showcase those in our industry who go above and beyond. This year’s winners are no exception.
Over 500 people from across NSW were in attendance to celebrate excellence and innovation in NSW mining and to hear the winners announced on August 5 at Crowne Plaza.
“It was great to see our Award winners recognised by so many of their industry peers,” said NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee.
“All our finalists were of a very high calibre, and on behalf of the NSW Minerals Council I congratulate them and all of our Award winners. The excellence and innovation recognised by these Awards are an important part of our industry’s determination to deliver better outcomes for our industry, our workforce, and our local communities.”
Winner – Health Excellence
Narrabri Gumboot trails with Crawford boots
Whitehaven Coal – Narrabri Mine
Given the dark, wet and rocky environment in underground mines, it’s no surprise that foot and ankle injuries are some of the most common experienced by miners.
In response to reports of foot, ankle and leg pain from the 300 strong workforce at Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri Underground mine, the mine approached Gunnedah-based podiatrist Penny Crawford to design footwear which could replace the current gumboots that the miners were using.
Alongside a team of industrial designers, specialised manufacturers and traditional rubber boot craftsmen, Penny developed the WedgeTech Personalised Lock-Fit System. The System works by locking the foot into a stable position into the boot.
After six months, the mine conducted a trial with miners wearing the specially made boots and found that 24 out of 25 participants would recommend the boots over other boots and their ratings for the boot far exceeded the ratings for non-Crawford boots.
Another trial 12 months later found that 75 percent of the original participants were still using the same Crawford boot, where other boots would be worn through every four months.
Whitehaven Coal now plans to introduce these new boots more broadly on site and educate its workplace about proper footwear.
Winner – Safety Excellence
Myuna Monorail Bracket
Centennial Coal – Myuna Mine
Centennial Coal’s Myuna Mine in west Lake Macquarie employs over 250 people. The mine uses the herringbone mining system, part of which requires a mesh strap to be attached to the ceiling every 1.5 metres to hang ventilation tubes.
However, Centennial found that this method led to an increase in shoulder injuries which, in turn, led to delays in production.
In an effort to address these issues, the Myuna Innovations Team met with its workforce to develop an alternative approach, which led to the ‘Monorail Bracket System’ that hangs down from the mine ceiling, eliminating the need for miners to install anything above their heads.
The elimination of mesh, in favour of the brackets, drastically lowered operating costs by around $500,000 a year, increased productivity and, most importantly, enhanced the health and safety of Myuna Mine’s employees.
Winner – Environment Excellence
Nest Box Program
Yancoal Australia – Duralie Coal Mine
Located in the Southern part of the Gloucester Basin, Yancoal’s Duralie Coal Mine has identified a marvellous way to protect endangered and native fauna through the use of Nest Boxes.
Large areas within the Gloucester Valley have been cleared through logging, leading to a loss of native vegetation and damaging the biodiversity in the area. This has meant a lack of hollow-bearing habitat in trees for local fauna, as the majority of the vegetation is regrowth and too young to contain hollows for fauna to live in.
To fix this problem, as part of their biodiversity offset strategy, the team at Duralie developed an idea to build artificial nest boxes which provide a habitat for a range of endemic native birds and mammals.
Running since 2012, the Nest Box Program has exceeded expectations, with a plan to expand the program to accommodate more species.
Winner – Community Excellence
The consultation of cultural recordings of stories told by Kamilaroi People
Idemitsu Australia Resources – Boggabri Coal Mine
Idemitsu Australia Resources’ Boggabri Coal Mine, which employs 600 people, has worked closely with the traditional owners of the land, the Kamilaroi people, to provide an educational resource that can be used by all Australians to improve their cultural awareness and understanding of the Kamilaroi Nation.
Made in consultation with members of the Kamilaroi Nation, the 20-minute film portrays the Dreamtime stories and the cultural traditions of the Kamilaroi. The team at Boggabri Coal hosted screenings of the film to the public and has given a copy to all local schools to raise awareness of the area’s rich indigenous connection.
This is a world-class example of a mining company investing in a project to highlight the significance of and cultural connection to ‘country’ by traditional owners. The standard that Boggabri Coal has achieved with its production ‘The Kamilaroi’ evoked genuine emotion and interest from members of the public, teachers and students alike.
Hunter Valley mines provide onsite work placement opportunities to local students, as part of an initiative to highlight pathways for local youth and promote a future in our industry.
Mines and organisations around the Hunter have committed to supporting young people through a number of programs and school to work initiatives. Most recently, Bengalla Mining Company and Glencore welcomed Hunter Valley students on to the mine site as part of work placement.
Bengalla joined forces with Youth Express to facilitate the work placement, enabling Muswellbrook High School Students Aidan Butchard and Justin Ryan to receive 35 hours of practical on the job experience in Elecro-technology as part of their HSC studies at Muswellbrook TAFE.
The experienced technicians at Bengalla created a varied schedule that enabled both students to gain experience across the workshop, infrastructure and breakdown crews to further enhance their knowledge for the electrical course that they are studying.
Youth Express is a not-for-profit organisation that works closely with industry, schools and TAFE to place students in real-life work placement opportunities. These placements are a mandatory requirement for senior students undertaking Vocational Education as part of their HSC. “It is great that Bengalla are supporting senior high school students in their chosen vocational subject area and their HSC,” said Jane Thompson, Work Placement Team Leader at Youth Express.
“It gives the students real life workplace experience and employers the opportunity to identify potential apprentices.”
Glencore’s Mt Owen Glendell Mine has also been providing support to students looking to make a career in the mining industry, hosting Year 10 student Callan Hungerford from St Catherine’s Catholic College Singleton.
Callan made contact with Mt Owen back in March asking if work experience was possible, which due to COVID-19 was postponed. Fortunately, still very keen to get some valuable Year 10 work experience in Mining-Environmental Science, Callan made contact again in September and was able to come on board.
Tasked with a broad range of environmental science and engineering aspects including environmental monitoring & compliance, rehabilitation inspections, biodiversity offset area inspections, soil & water sampling, geology & coal sampling, surveying, blasting, operations supervision and coal handling & preparation to name a few; Callan spent time with personnel ranging from graduates through to manager level within the business.
“The work experience program I participated in with Mt Owen Glendell Operations gave me the unique opportunity to experience what it is like to work in a local coal mine,” Callan said.
Although living in Singleton, Callan said he had never been in a mine to see its operations. “I couldn’t believe the sheer magnitude of the pits – they are enormous, and each person plays a part in bringing the operations together, to not only produce one of Australia’s biggest exports, but also employment to our local community,” he added.
“I was also able to sit in a dump truck and an operator took me out to experience what it feels like to collect a load; I had no idea how massive this vehicle was until I was standing on the ground looking up at it!”
Callan was able to experience job roles directly related to an Environmental Officer and multidiscipline Engineering (Mining, Surveying & Process).
It’s opportunities like these presented by Glencore and Bengalla that highlight the pathways available for youth in the local area. It’s also a great way for employees to identify potential apprentices.
Giving students work placement opportunities to further solidify their knowledge and gain further insight into career pathways is something that not only supports local young people, but also promotes a future in the resources industry.
Bengalla prioritises the development of school to work pathways, and support education for local students as part of their strategic map, through a number of ways. Fiona Hartin, Community Relations Specialist at Bengalla Mining Company, says the mine actively participates in Career Days at Muswellbrook High School and invites Year 10 students on site for work experience. “We are always striving to develop effective linkages between the school to work initiatives that highlight pathways for youth in the local area,” she said.
“We are more than happy to have been able to facilitate this and see this as a partnership that will continue long into the future to benefit young local students.”
This was evident with the experiences and opportunities organised for the two students. They were placed with experienced technicians and rotated across different areas within the business. With electricians who work on planned maintenance, breakdown crews as well as within their infrastructure team; there was plenty of opportunity for Aidan and Justin to experience a day in the life of an electrician and get hands on.
Equally Glencore supports their local communities by welcoming and attracting talented young people to experience the ins and outs and endless opportunities of the resources industry. Anthony Billings is a Glencore Environment & Community graduate himself and was excited to be sharing his knowledge with Callan. “Whether it is science, engineering, or the environment if there is an opportunity to support the passion of today’s youth it will only benefit the future of today’s industry,” said Anthony.
“As a Graduate myself I am passionate about the environment and the legacy left behind after mining; it was great to provide my own knowledge and advice to Callan while he explores his passion in the environment.”
Discovering the different pathways into a career in mining, or any other industry for that matter, is vital in promoting a future for our local youth. It’s great to see companies like Glencore and Bengalla Mining Company taking charge in supporting the future of our industry. Callan summed up his experience by thanking Glencore’s Mt Owen Glendell management and team for giving him the opportunity to experience different roles in the field he is looking at for his future. “I am very grateful to the Mt Owen and Glendell personnel that showed me their roles and educated me on how they contribute to the mines’ overall operations,” he said.
“I am looking forward to continuing with my education with a goal of joining the mining sector in the future.”
IMG: Callan Hungerford from St Catherine’s Catholic College Singleton on site at Glencore’s Mt Owen Glendell Mine
Learning to Lead
This month we share the inspiring story of how Leah Miller became NSW Mining’s 2020 Exceptional Young Woman in Mining. We caught up with Leah to hear about her journey and what it’s like to become a role model for young women.
Leah is the CHPP Maintenance Delivery Superintendent at Yancoal’s Mt Thorley Warkworth Mine. She’s not only the first female to hold the role, but also the first to do so without a trade or engineering qualification. Her story is proof that with determination, hard work and a willingness to learn there really are no limits to where a career in mining can take you.
Raised on a dairy farm in Victoria, Leah’s a country girl at heart. Life on the farm meant not being scared to get your hands dirty. It also instilled in Leah the attitude to ‘get in and get the job done’. Growing up, Leah also moved schools a lot which was a tough but valuable experience.
“Moving around a lot taught me how to make connections and to interact with people from all walks of life,” Leah said. “It’s a skill that has served me well and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
When it came time for university, Leah did a Bachelor of Business and Commerce at Bond University on the Gold Coast. Upon finishing her degree she entered a Rio Tinto Graduate Program as a Business Analyst in 2012, expecting to spend the next 18 months working at Hunter Valley Operations before moving on.
“I hadn’t really considered a career in the mining industry but the program seemed like a great opportunity so I decided to give it a go. It was while I was in this role that everything changed. The downturn hit and I began working with teams all across the business to identify ways to save money. I’m proud to say that during this challenging period working as part of a team we identified millions of dollars of cost savings.”
“Before that happened I was feeling a little unsatisfied with the predictability of the role. These new challenges gave me a real sense of accomplishment and I saw what you could achieve as part of a bigger team. I got to see how one side of the business could tangibly improve the other side. It made me want to learn more and do more. It was then I decided I wanted to move to an operational role.”
Leah knew that it would be a difficult transition to move from the commercial to the operational side of the business. She began to look for other people with her background who had moved across to other roles thinking they could provide a road map on how to transition, but it turned out only rarely had it ever been done before.
Despite this Leah was determined to take on an operational role and began exploring options within mining, maintenance and CHPP. Thanks to her persistence, and no doubt her skill at connecting with people, before long she was promoted into a Specialist Contractor Management role.
“This role really opened my eyes to the art of influencing people and what you could achieve as part of a team and was a good stepping stone. I continued to build relationships and chase down opportunities and thanks to a manager who had faith in me I got the role of Rebuild Coordinator with the maintenance team in 2017.”
For the next year Leah oversaw over 150 HME rebuilds leading a team of 140 personnel. Where some might have struggled being thrown in the deep end, Leah thrived. She established herself as a strong leader and managed her first capital project to completion, on time, on budget and, most importantly, safely.
“Not minding getting my hands dirty sure came in handy for my first capital project,” Leah says with a laugh. “It was one of those projects where you jumped one hurdle and another would come up. It was extremely stressful but I relished the challenge.”
Then after only 10 months in the role Leah stepped up into the role of Project & Shutdown Superintendent when the former leader unexpectedly became ill. It was a stressful time for her and her team but Leah kept them motivated and continued to deliver high value outcomes despite the pressure they were under.
With so many successes under her belt and a reputation established as a respected leader it was no surprise when in October 2019 Leah was rewarded with the role of CHPP Maintenance Delivery Superintendent where she became responsible for leading a large team while managing maintenance priorities.
“We’ve had our challenges since I stepped into the role, especially with the pandemic, but we have exceeded our availability target by 1.5% thanks to the entire team. I’m proud to have been able to lead them and help them maximise their skills so we could achieve this together.”
Through every role Leah has shown that she can step up to any challenge and is a role model not just to women, but to everyone. A worthy winner of the award, yet Leah says she was very surprised to be nominated let alone win.
“I’m really very grateful and honoured to have won, it’s recognition of all the hard work I’ve put in. During the presentation of the award so many people were there with me. All the people who contributed. From the warehouse to HR to the infrastructure to the managers. People that believed in me and helped me and taught me. I wouldn’t have got to where I am today without those people.”
Although she’s now a strong advocate for the awards, Leah said she didn’t know too much about them before being nominated but now recognises how important they are.
“Awards like these are vital, not only to recognise all the women out there doing fantastic things, but to promote the opportunities that are available in the mining industry and show young girls what’s possible.”
“Our business like many in our industry still needs more female representation in the workforce. Here we have only 12.1% of female representation and only 2 out of 13 operational superintendent roles are filled by women. The business has done a lot in terms of improving facilities and spaces but we still have a way to go.”
“I’d like to be able to tell young people and especially young girls who are still in school or considering careers that there is more out there than you can ever imagine. In our industry there are roles and jobs that most people don’t even know about.”
Leah has plenty of advice that she’s keen to share. Her drive to learn has been a key element in her success. “If you haven’t got the skill, get out there and look, see, touch, feel. I’ve found that nearly every person I’ve worked with has been willing to teach me. If you show you are interested people will respond and happily share their knowledge.”
Leah also advises that you should take every opportunity that comes along. Be willing to say yes and take that chance.
“The best advice I was ever given was don’t wait until you’re ready for your next job before you go for it. You might never be ready. I think this is especially important advice for women who are more likely to underestimate their skills.”
And those skills don’t have to come from a degree or qualification. Leah has learnt that experience often means more than a piece of paper. Whilst study is important nothing beats real world knowledge.
“The other advice I have to give is find mentors and people who will support you. ‘You can’t be who you can’t see’. And don’t necessarily look for mentors who are at the top, often the people who are one or two rungs above you are the ones who can help the most. Think outside your department or role for mentors too.”
“I’ve also found programs like WIMnet to be valuable. LinkedIn is great too, not only for the contacts you can make, it also has a lot of online courses and resources and most of them are free. At the end of the day it’s about expanding your awareness, getting out and trying things, you never know where you’ll end up. I never thought I’d be doing this that’s for sure but I would never go back. It’s challenging and rewarding and fulfilling.”
After talking to Leah, I was impressed by her story, but what impressed me even more was discovering later that she has achieved all this whilst facing the challenges of managing an autoimmune disease, a disease which has severely impacted her work and home life. Instead of allowing the illness to obstruct her, it seems instead she has used it to strengthen her by giving her a greater understanding and empathy towards others in the workplace.
What’s next for Leah? “I’m not really sure,” she muses. “I’ll be looking to my mentors for direction, maybe a little soul searching, and of course I’m always looking for what can I do next.”
Warwick’s Wish for better Co-Existence
Warwick Moppett is striving for better engagement and co-existence between agriculture and resources industries in a bid to drive a more positive future for Northern NSW.
From the farm to the work site, Warwick Moppett has always been passionate about the big industries that bring knowledge, new skills and groundwork to rural communities.
Warwick has been on and off the farm since his father purchased ‘Eveleigh’ in 1988 and at 51 years of age his passion for the land hasn’t subsided. He is now in partnership with his brother Peter operating over two farms in the Tooraweenah district of NSW.
When he’s not on the farm with his wife Kylie and two children, Warwick is a land access advisor for an oil and gas producer in Narrabri, NSW. “It’s a great opportunity for me as I’m able to mix it with the farm,” said Warwick.
“Like so many farmers my other skills are not ticketed but I know how to work and so this industry has looked after me and provided my family security during the dry times on the farm.”
“I’m living a great life balanced between the farm and the industry.”
His time with the petroleum industry began in 2009 when Warwick was a full-time farmer. Independent oil and gas producers were exploring and required access to the ‘Everleigh’ farm. Acknowledging that at the time things were tough on the farm, Warwick went ahead with the opportunity and the results were positive.
“In 2012 I was asked to tell my story to other landholders considering exploration; I did,” said Warwick.
Later that year Warwick was offered a job with those same producers and from there grew his passion for creating a positive dialogue for coexistence.
During the drought in particular Warwick was busy, often working on the farm to assist feeding the sheep on weekends to relieve their employees. Day in and day out for 3 years, the only food they had to offer the animals was their grazing bins. “Drought can be soul sapping,” said Warwick.
“However, for 3 days a week I’d return to off farm work and focus on the task at hand, in my case liaising with other great farms doing it hard through my role in Narrabri.”
Proud to have not called on the public purse to assist through the drought, Warwick said it’s one of the positives of successfully integrating two careers. He added, “This is one of my personal goals – to bring the opportunities to local farmers and just reduce the absolute reliance on farm income.”
Working in the petroleum industry Warwick learnt a lot about the environment, health and safety and risk management. And in all of those areas, took back learnings from work and applied them on the farm. “I’ve engaged Health and Safety experts to assist making the farm safer,” he said.
For a long time, agriculture and mining have been the big industries in the North West that have driven the local economy, providing jobs and bringing people to the region. And for a long time, there has been debate on whether these two industries can coexist.
There is no debate that tractors are not growing on trees. There is also no debate that farming has been vital in leading sustainability in primary industries. “The question is not no or yes, but how we can operate to mutually benefit,” said Warwick.
“There is no winner if we try to prove who is the biggest or more important; we need each other.
“It always strikes me as strange when people drive up in a vehicle (any type, they all need a hole in the ground to make them) and complain about mining without acknowledging the reason they are here is that our two industries, farming and mining, do coexist.
“There should always be robust honest dialogue that raises the differences of opinion and we need an umpire that arbitrates the discussion and ensures the important facts are clear.”
So, what’s next for the co-existence of mining and agriculture? Warwick says we need to maintain some simple truths in our education about the coexistence.
“A litre of milk requires grass and water, some steel and energy, a truck and plastic carton, and finally a glass,” said Warwick.
Put simply, both industries continue to improve performance through the development of new technologies and systems. Both industries deliver essential products that all Australian’s need, use and consume. Our miners consume local farmed produce like beef and wheat, and our farmers make use of locally mined products like metals for fencing. Our coal mines also provide off farm employment for farmers, including during times of drought.
The need is to now make both of our industries sustainable by developing systems that effectively manage issues like land and water use. A balanced approach is essential if we want to move forward. “Land use pressure is going to continue to increase as our children subdivide, buy a house or flat and we live longer,” said Warwick.
“Having a system that acknowledges the key stakeholders and listens to all of the issues, to bring facts and science to bare is integral to confidence to live in our community.”
Warwick is a great example of how we can live and work together towards a brighter, more inclusive future. Both industries are essential to our local communities and wider Australian economy. It’s time to accept that effective coexistence is the way forward in order to mutually benefit both industries and the communities surrounding them.
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