Blair Athol's camaraderie remembered at end of era
SHORTY Bryant started as a sandblaster and painter at Clermont's Blair Athol Mine in 1987, and has spent more than half his working life at the site.
When the Rio Tinto mine closes at noon today, it will be the camaraderie of the workforce he will miss, and remember.
"When I started driving, I learnt in the Admiral, a 175-tonne Caterpillar haul truck that was the pride of the fleet," he said.
"I have driven a lot of trucks since then, but she'll always be my favourite."
Desciribing Blair Athol as "a bloody good place to work", Shorty said he was sad it was over and his 25 years on site had been a "dream ride".
"I will miss the sense of community and the way people look out for each other," he said. "We would go to the races together, play cricket or footy on the weekends and get our families together.
"My kids have grown up now, so from here I'll be heading to the coast to buy a house with an ocean view and spend my retirement days fishing and relaxing."
It was the search for water which led to the discovery of coal at the site of Blair Athol Mine in 1864, yet it wasn't until 120 years later the mine came to life with the first export coal shipped to Japan in May 1984 as part of a 72-million tonne contract.
Blair Athol Mine produced close to 250 million tonnes of thermal coal during its lifetime with the operation gradually scaling back over the past five years as the main coal seam was mined out.
Clermont region general manager operations Dawid Pretorius said: "Rather than see the closing of Blair Athol Mine as a sad day, the employees and suppliers of Blair Athol Mine, who have played such an important part in the mine over the last 30 years, are reminiscing and celebrating the life of the mine and what the mine achieved.
"At its peak Blair Athol Mine had a workforce of more than 400 people and was an economic powerhouse for the region producing over 12 million tonnes of coal a year with minimal equipment and infrastructure.
"It achieved outstanding results through the dedication of its workforce and was significant in that it had one of the thickest coal seams in Australia extending to 30 metres deep in parts, as well as the latest excavating equipment such as the world's largest 'super dozer' of the time."
Rehabilitation on the site has taken place progressively over the past few decades as land has become more available, and will continue to be the focus for years to come.
Mr Pretorius said the company would continue to consult with the community about future use of the Blair Athol land.
Rio Tinto Australia's managing director David Peever worked at Blair Athol for four years in the late 1980s, and said he remembered his time fondly.
"There was a very strong sense of community among the workforce with excellent housing, recreational and educational facilities," Mr Peever said.