My Mining Life – Simon West
Who are you and what do you do?
Simon West and I am a Shotfirer at BHPs Goonyella Riverside Mine
When did you start in the mining industry and what was your first job?
In 2003, I got a start with Smith’s Earthmoving at Peak Downs. I was driving trucks. It was a great job and they were a lovely family to work for.
How different is your job now to what you had wanted to be when you were a kid?
I had no idea what I wanted to do for work when I was a kid. I ended up in the hospitality industry then spent 10 years running hotels and licensed clubs. My last job was managing the St Kilda Football Club Social Club which I did for about three years before my wife (Fiona) and I decided on a working holiday around Australia. I had no idea that holiday would lead me to Moranbah where Fi and I built a house, a life and a family. We love it here.
What does a usual day at work look like?
Every day is the same, but different (if you know what I mean). I leave home a little before 5 am/pm and get home about 6.30 am/pm. Blasting is an interesting job with many different stages through the day. It’s repetitive, but in a good way.
What is the best thing about your job?
The people. I’ve been in the Blast Crew for nearly 20 years first as a contractor, then labour hire before getting a permanent job. I have met some fantastic people in that time. I have worked with some of those people the whole time. It’s amazing. I am lucky to be working with a great group of people now.
The worst thing?
Summer, it’s the heat. 12.5 hours out in the Summer heat, sometimes with crazy humidity. It makes for a big day.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
From a work perspective, I think getting my Shotfirer’s License. When I got my Shotfirer’s License it was a different time. We worked in small crews and you could not even attempt to get a shotfirer’s ticket until the crew thought you were ready. When you finally got your licence, we all went out and celebrated. It was a real achievement. It’s different today.
What was your proudest achievement?
From a mining perspective, it’s the Moranbah Miners Memorial. I was involved from when the concept was first floated. I am the Treasurer of the MMM committee and have been there every step of the way. I think the respect and care the memorial represents for our fallen miners and their families is something the mining community and the Moranbah community as a whole can be very proud of.
What’s something about your job that would surprise people?
It’s not as dangerous as you might think, as long as you follow the process and don’t take short cuts.
What’s a funny story about work that you can tell?
A local well known young fella of Kiwi origin, who happens to be a great guitar player and an American car enthusiast was leaving work one day a little bit on the early side. As he passed the boss, the boss said, ”You’re going a bit early, aren’t you champ?” Without breaking stride our man said, “I would hate to be late twice in the same day Ray.” Our Kiwi brother still works at GRM, the boss does not.
What do you do in your downtime?
Family is my real joy, time spent with them is the best part of my week. I’m also involved in the Union movement, I’m an elected Moranbah Councillor and recently, I have taken on a role to help the fantastic Moranbah Bowls club get back up and running. So, there’s not actually a lot of downtime.
The mining industry gets more than its fair share of criticism. What is your view of the industry and the impact that it has?
It depends a bit on how you look at that question. The need for high-quality metallurgical coal will be with us for some time. The Bowen Basin has some of the best coal in the world and we mine it in the most responsible way available to us. I think the big mining companies could do more in the community in which they operate, and the state government could spend more in the communities that make the mining revenue. But I could talk all day about that.
It’s a great industry with a big future.