The end of 2022 sees the conclusion of 28 years of continuous Thiess operations, under successive contracts and numerous owners, at the Mt Owen Mine in the Hunter Valley.
Thiess General Manager Mining – NSW David Owen said this is a significant achievement that is unparalleled in Australia’s mining sector.
“From the early days in 1994 when Thiess built the mine complex, through several ownership changes, Thiess teams have delivered safe, innovative and productive mining services for our clients at the mine,” he said.
“The key to our longstanding operations at the mine is the genuine commitment that Thiess has to partnerships – in operations with our suppliers and OEMs, with the community, with our people, and with our various owners at the mine over the years. Our innovations and the commitment of our people have ensured the mine’s success and resilience during the various commodity and economic cycles.”
Following the construction of the mine by Thiess, mining operations commenced in 1995, with Thiess continuously undertaking all mining activities including mine planning, design and execution, drill and blast, overburden removal, coal mining services and rehabilitation.
Thiess employs more than 440 people at Mt Owen, including some who have been working at the site since start of construction in 1994. This includes one of Thiess’ longest serving employees, Steve Howell, who has been with Thiess for more than 45 years, a great achievement.
Mt Owen’s deposit is complex, comprising multiple coal seams dipping up to 45 degrees, with mined seam thickness between 400mm and 11 metres, and depth of mine up to 270 metres below the surface.
Thiess’ ongoing operational innovation and development of through-seam blasting some 20 years ago has been the key to the ongoing operations at Mt Owen. Without the Thiess developed innovation in drilling and blasting techniques and software development, the economics of the mine would have seen the mine close many years ago. It is Thiess’ ongoing innovation and highly skilled workforce that have enabled them to successfully mine this challenging deposit through the years, providing a valuable and consistent service for Mt Owen’s successive owners.
The Thiess fleets have operated through all conditions over the years, with a strong and committed focus on the asset management and maintenance of both client-owned and Thiess equipment. The strata recognition system on Thiess drills is the longest running anywhere in the world, a credit to the team that drives ongoing innovation to keep at the forefront of the mining industry.
Long term Thiess Project Manager Jeroen Hendriks explained that the team’s longevity at Mt Owen is a record in the mining contracting sector.
“We believe this is one of the longest continuous engagements of a contractor in the Australian resources sector,” he said.
“This is a testament to the people who work here. Our commitment, focus on health and safety, genuine care for the environment and the community in which we work – are second to none.
“A key focus for Thiess has been working closely with our people. We offer a range of support programs, one-on-one planning with employees, and other assistance.
“We have worked for a number of clients throughout our tenure at Mt Owen and are particularly proud of these long-term, established and positive relationships.
“We also thank all of the contractors and suppliers who have supported us and been so crucial to our delivering for clients.”
During the remainder of 2022, the Mt Owen team have planned family days and crew get-togethers to acknowledge the success of the past 27 years and celebrate the key to that success – the Thiess team members at Mt Owen.
Safety & Wellbeing
Throughout Thiess’ decades of work at Mt Owen the safety, health and wellbeing of everyone at site has been a key priority. This has included success in Open Cut Mines Rescue competitions and a focus on the overall health of the team.
A key highlight was the 2018 NSW Minerals Council Health Excellence award for the Positively Healthy Program, which was a practical initiative to promote and support the overall good health of the Mt Owen team.
An employee-led innovation saw the development of a body shield to protect team members working on the undercarriages of large excavators. The shield is a true safety innovation developed at Mt Owen and shared across other Thiess operations and industry.
The Thiess team at Mt Owen has led industry best practice native forest rehabilitation since 1997. Early implementation of practices such as mulching timber to incorporate into topsoil and using locally collected native seed on rehabilitation, earned Mt Owen environmental award nominations and accolades, including winning the 2005 Hunter-Central Rivers Coal Industry Environmental Award for its biodiversity management program. In 2009, the Mt Owen team’s rehabilitation efforts were recognised by the Global Restoration Network.
In 2012, the Thiess team at Mt Owen launched an industry-first study into the reintroduction and movement of the Spotted Tail (Tiger) quoll, which is helping the team provide sustainable solutions such as artificial habitat structures and feeding sites.
The site engineers, surveyors, production, and environmental personnel have delivered over 500ha of quality rehabilitation over the last 25 years – a lasting contribution that has enhanced the pre-mining agricultural landscape and is now important habitat for a wide variety of native birds and wildlife.
The Thiess Mt Owen team has been continuously supporting the local Hunter Valley community, with significant and ongoing efforts of team members who regularly and actively contribute to local initiatives.
Over the years support has been provided to local and national organisations including the Singleton Family Support Mail Run, Clean Up Australia Day, Clontarf Foundation, McGrath Foundation, Movember, Mark Hughes Foundation and Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Teams have also regularly rallied together to raise funds for fellow employees and family members during times of need.