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Then And Now



We’re back with another month of getting to know our industry leaders and what led them to the mining industry. Here’s the stories of some of our @ The Coalface mates.

Cassandra Walker – General Manager, Northwest Mining

I grew up in Muswellbrook and went to Muswellbrook High School. In 2008 I was offered employment at a local parts company; I always had a fascination for blue collar work and was eager to learn. Then in 2013 I was offered to do a Diploma of Business to further grow my management skills. Once completed, I still wanted to learn more, so I undertook another Diploma in IT & Web Development. I soon realised I didn’t like that field so much and decided to go back to Uni to undertake a Bachelor of Business. 2014 was a busy year – I married my now husband, accepted a new job at Northwest Mining (NWM) and applied at Uni for my Bachelor of Business and studied via distance education in my spare time. In 2015 I took on a HR role at NWM and developed my skills through university and practical learning. I really value learning and development, so in 2018 I applied at another university to undergo my Masters Of Business which I have successfully completed in August 2020 and I was promoted to General Manager in October last year. I have had many mentors to help me excel both in my professional life and personal. Northwest has been an amazing company to work for and the possibilities are always endless.


Brad Kebblewhite – General Manager, Solid Engineering 

Where do I start? I’ve had a very diverse, exciting and successful working life to date and my plan is for it to stay that way! I started my working life as a 13-year-old paperboy, before progressing onto McDonalds, and worked one day a week at a local real estate office doing “work experience”. In the January 2000 after completing my HSC I started my first full time job as a real estate agent. It was at this young age I set a goal to be a successful business mentor myself in the future. My real estate career saw me become a business owner for the first time when I went into partnership with a colleague. Newly married and with baby number one a career change was on the cards. For the next seven or eight years I worked seven days a week. My 9-5 was industrial sales and my nights and weekends were running a new business my wife and started that was a DJ, party & wedding business. Around 2010 I sold my business and moved into a sales manager then operations manager role with a local mining supplier. I really loved the mining industry and the comradery shown by all of those working in it. After working with some small to medium businesses for around 12 months, I took a long-term consulting role with Solid Engineering in 2017 and went on to become the General Manager, a director and a shareholder. I am looking forward to many more happy, successful and exciting years with the team at Solid Engineering.


Rhyan Slaney – Operations Manager, HMS Group

Like many, I started off from relatively humble beginnings. Growing up in Maitland, NSW and having a love for anything mechanical. After HSE, I secured a fitting apprenticeship with Nepean Longwall, eventually making my way into a mechanical designer role. At 22, I was fortunate enough to be assigned design team leader for a new longwall being supplied to the then Glencore, Tahmoor Mine. This opportunity early into my working career engraved my passion for working with end users to provide mechanical design solutions. Fast forward to the present, I am now the Operations Manager at HMS Group, providing safe, ergonomic design solutions to industries across Australia. Being such a dynamic workplace, I am able to enjoy working across all areas of the business, from working on the tools, designing, visiting clients and running the day to day operations. 


Simon Troeth – Industry Positioning and Engagement, Minerals Council of Australia (MCA)

I am proud of my origins on a farm in south-western Victoria, where my 82-year-old dad still raises cattle and sheep and breeds a few racehorses. I grew up on a horse (although mostly falling off George the ill-tempered Shetland pony in the photo) before graduating to mechanical horsepower as soon as I could get my licence! My career started in journalism before taking me on a colourful journey on life’s rich tapestry across politics, consultancy, industry groups and even a few months as a fibreglass labourer. In my role at the MCA, it’s a great thing to be able to help represent Australia’s extraordinary mining industry and the people who work in it. At the MCA I lead a team which looks after membership, campaigns, media, social media, partnerships and engagement. One of the best parts of my job is getting out on site in NSW, the Pilbara and Queensland and meeting the awesome men and women who work in the industry. Mining is great for Australia and our regional communities in so many ways and the people in the industry are the best! Thanks to the Coalface team for your support.



Good. Better. Best.



Hitachi’s range of mining excavators is a dominant force in Australia. With six machines in their mining line up, they have a solution for every size and type of mine, from the versatile 120t EX1200-7 excavator through to their EX8000-6 weighing in at a whopping 837t.

Available in backhoe and face shovel configurations, these machines are highly regarded and operate globally. Instantly recognisable in their distinctive Hitachi orange, you’re most likely to find the EX2600, EX3600 and EX5600 backhoes working in the Valley.

Sitting in the sweet spot of Hitachi’s diggers is the EX3600. A stalwart of the Australian mining industry, Hitachi has deployed locally over 100 of these 370t excavators since launching the EX3600-5. Now in its third iteration, the Japanese manufactured EX3600-7 is Hitachi’s latest generation machine built upon industry feedback and the Company’s learnings in the field to produce more fuel efficient product for customers.

In a development immediately broadening the appeal of this excavator, miners now have an option of power plant with both the Cummins QSKTA60 or MTU 12V4000 on offer.

Combined with improvements in the machine’s hydraulic system, operators can reasonably expect reductions in fuel consumption between 4 – 7% compared with the previous model (the EX3600-6 with Cummins engine configuration). Further, intelligent management systems including main pump electric regulators on each individually controlled hydraulic pump as well as, a hydraulic regeneration circuit, permit this machine reduced pump demand, enhancing engine power, lowering fuel consumption and increasing productivity.

All too aware of the detrimental effects of dust and moisture ingress, Hitachi has introduced slit-less solid conduit harnesses and junction boxes. In the instance of damage, electrical harnesses between junction boxes can be replaced individually, ultimately reducing maintenance time and cost. Likewise, the cab riser now features a pressuriser system to minimise dust infiltration and extend the service life of electronic components within.

Improving upon a product that customers already like, the hydraulic hoses between the boom and main piping have been rearranged from an arch to underslung configuration removing the need for clamps, reducing deflection and increasing reliability. And I could go on, with features too numerous to contemplate in this article.

Find out more today by contacting your local Hitachi representative or go online at


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NSW Leads Nation with New Facility



Australia’s only independent underground mine explosives testing facility has opened at Freeman’s Waterhole NSW.

Paving the way for improvements in mine safety and innovation in the mining industry, the new testing facility is under the control of the NSW Resources Regulator’s Mine Safety Technology Centre (RR).

The facility, which is discreetly built on the site of a quarry to reduce impact on the surrounding environment, will be used to determine if locally made explosives are viable and meet vital safety requirements to protect the wellbeing of workers.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro recently launched the first round of explosives testing at the new facility and stated that it positions NSW as the nation’s leader in mine safety development.

“Currently, there are few explosives that can be used in underground coal mines and these kinds of explosives have a very short shelf life, they don’t travel well and need to be developed and tested locally,” Mr Barilaro said.

The RR is responsible for regulating the mining industry in NSW, which includes work, health safety matters through to environmental issues such as mine rehabilitation.

Anthony Keon, Executive Director of the Resources Regulator said the new testing facility is critical to ensure that people can have confidence in the materials and explosives being used underground. “The establishment of this facility will ensure that we’re not stifling innovation,” said Anthony.

“It will give industry and explosive manufacturers access to this test which has previously been unavailable for almost decades.

“There are limited facilities of this type throughout the world and because of the limited shelf life on these products we really need something locally based in order to open up those opportunities for NSW companies and for the NSW mining industry.”

“What the test is trying to do is ensure that explosives when used properly don’t ignite methane; and we’ve seen through numerous incidents throughout the world and even recently in Queensland the ramifications of when there isn’t an ignition of methane.”

Geoff Slater, Manager at Mine Safety Technology Centre said the development of explosives specifically for underground coal mines started back in the1890s at the Greenwich Naval Facility London. Early tests used a small bore cannon and this influenced majority of test facilities since that time.

“The facility at Freemans Waterhole uses concrete culverts and water bags to reduce the noise emissions during testing,” said Geoff.

“Extensive computer simulations were used to determine the best optimum use of the water.”

Test rounds at the facility will be scheduled to meet the needs of industry, at up to two to three times per year, restricted to work hours on weekdays.

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Students Have A Yarn



St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.

Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.

A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.

In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.

Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”

“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”

The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.

St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.

“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.

“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”

“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”

St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.

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