At the Coal Face… Literally!
In my capacity as independent chair of the Menangle Advisory Panel, I recently had the very unique opportunity to go several hundred metres underground in the Appin Mine which provides the steelmaking coal for the Illawarra.
The Panel and I where heading underground to get a first hand understanding of the operations of the mine which has recently received planning permissions to build a ventilation shaft and access point at Menangle.
Talk about living the values. Everything about the companies interactions from the moment you arrive makes it clear that safety and procedure are at the core of their function. The PPE, equipment, briefings and interactions are all underpinned with a serious respect for the no nonsense business of being underground.
The moments of the team are courteous and efficient and I was struck by the sheer experience and capability of the team – most reassuring for those not familiar with enclosed spaces.
Its not often I am stumped for words (especially in my line of business), but I would challenge anyone to be able to articulate the experience we had with quite the same full sensory immersion. The way the temperature and humidity changed depending on your proximity to a ventilation shaft, the changes in lighting, dampness in some places, the economising of resources across great distances had wowed us into silence for much of the tour.
The size of the machinery and the layout and connectivity of the underground network was impressive and complex. I will never complain about navigating the carpark of a Westfield shopping centra again!
Coal Dust EVERYWHERE
The importance of onsite bathhouse facilities became abundantly clear as we ascended the lifts and were able to remove some layers of PPE. I was pretty pleased to find a couple of authentic smudges on my cheek which definitely overstated any kind of effort exerted underground.
I have to hand it to those who work in the mining sector. Retrieval of raw materials is not for the faint hearted (and not just because you cant take your mobile phone with you on your shift). Very grateful to have access to such an experience, but wont be applying for a day to day role below ground any time soon!