“It’s bloody cold out here on the mine site but we’re having a laugh anyway!” My Facebook recollection of this event. It was bone chillingly cold. We were having a laugh though. This was work? Eunice and I were operating a polling booth at the entrance gates to the Gregory open cut mine outside Emerald, Central Queensland. It was winter. It was freezing. It was June 2012. Our day began at 2.30am, since it took an hour to drive out to the mine site from our accommodation in Emerald AND we had to be there ready and set-up for the mine staff to arrive for their 4am shift. It was an awesome experience and I will always be grateful for this eye-opening week away out in the ‘sticks’.
There were cows. There were dodgy, ancient and highly doubtful looking petrol bowsers in the middle of no-where. There was a ride in a drag-line. What? Where? Why? ……….
I shall start at the beginning.
Before June 2012 I hadn’t given much thought to mining, despite having lived in Gladstone for five years by then. Coal trains were a constant fixture and the pesky coal dust was the bane of many house cleaners’ existence in Gladstone. I was glad to have the chance to get to appreciate the sheer size of the region and its remoteness, before moving away .
Emerald is a four-hour drive west of Gladstone. Emerald is smack in the middle of the Central Highlands Region and is within the Federal Division of Flynn. It has a population of just over 15,000 people and 7,534 cows……The cows enjoy wandering freely in the middle of the main road. Urban road rules do not apply out there. The cows have the right of way.
We gave way to these fine looking cows, who just kept chewing and looked at us as though we were intruding on their turf…
You might be thinking I have some sort of fancy for these four-legged creatures. Visit my previous post on Rockhampton’s Bodacious Bull Collection and you’ll see what I mean…
Mine employees were casting their votes in an Industrial Election regarding the choice of a union representative. As AEC employees, we were tasked with conducting the poll and taking the votes from employees as they arrived for (or departed from) their shifts. We, as electoral officials, had two shifts of our own to contend with – from 4am until 8am and then from 4pm until 8pm. I had heard people say that the time right before the sunrise is the coldest. They are right. It was quiet. It was bitterly cold. It was exhilarating!
We kept warm with a myriad of blankets and chattered happily between ourselves and to the workers as they arrived on-site, usually by bus. Asking lots of questions seemed a pretty good way of passing the time and distracting ourselves from the blistering cold. We encountered explosives experts, drivers, engineers and one wonderful worker clocked on for his shift then came all the way back to the front gate to bring us a hot cuppa!
This was also how we met Dave. Dave had worked on-site for many years and after we got chatting he asked if we were interested in having a bit of a look around the mine-site. He didn’t have to ask us twice. We were keen. We arranged a time and place to come back and meet him, after our first ‘shift’ of the day was over, which gave us time to get properly ‘attired’ to be led onto the actual mine site. Note the attractive footwear, hard hat and stylish vest ensemble.
Dave took us out in his ute and we gazed in awe at the sheer size of the mine. He told us many fascinating things about the operation of the mine itself and we were then thrilled to be given a chance to hop up into the drag-line and stand on-board as it was swung into operation! Wow. This made the early starts and bitterly cold morning sessions all worth it. The dew on our Tupperware and frost bitten toes were forgotten as we got to stand next to the operator, up in the control booth, as he swung the massive machine through its paces.
We made the most of our week out that way. We visited many polling booths and conducted election worthiness inspections of these booths. This afforded us another chance to explore this region, heading as far out west as Sapphire, Rubyvale and the Gemfields. It is an amazing and awe-inspiring part of Queensland to see.
There are some colourful characters out that way yet they are all friendly, un-assuming and interesting people to chat to.
We wrapped up our week in Central Queensland with the count and obtained a result in the election for the client. Later that same year, the open-cut mine closed and now the underground mine is the only section still operating. It was a great opportunity to do and see something not only different but amazing!
It wasn’t the prettiest of destinations, but it sure was a great experience. It was work, after all…!