A new partnership between UGM Group Australia and Mines Rescue, a division of Coal Services, will provide would-be miners with better hands-on experience through a specialised induction.
The CoalStart program, launched on June 26 by Resources and Energy minister Christopher Hartcher, is a three week course based in Newcastle, NSW, that takes place on the Teralba mine site and is overseen by a statutory mine manager.
UGM Group training centre manager Brad Phillips, who has worked in underground mines for more than 21 years, said the program was developed by experienced miners.
“Our program is very consistent with how a mine site actually works. I was very instrumental in the design in a lot of the program,” Mr Phillips said.
“It’s managed by people that have been in the industry for a very long time and have worked at that high level statutory mine manager status as well; very renowned and respected mining people.”
Virtual reality simulation technology is utilised in the program to immerse participants in the mining environment, offering detailed information and familiarisation with on-site operations, procedures and equipment. The virtual reality modules cover vehicle and continuous miner operations, surfaces advance
and retraction, secondary support, working in returns, longwall relocation and surface operations.
Mr Phillips said the virtual reality portion of the program was extremely beneficial.
“It’s like an abyss where you’ll stand in the room and the screen goes all the way around you like you’re actually down in the mine,” he said.
“Even though it’s somewhat animated as virtual reality it’s just so real, and it’s so precise as to what the mining environment actually is. It’s just like being down there – it’s quite amazing to actually witness it.”
The improvement of the safety of new entrants into the industry is the course’s focus and participants conduct training under a Coal Mine Safety Management System.
Skills-based practical training is conducted on a mine site with everyday mine equipment, allowing trainees to become familiar with operating equipment and to help build confidence with ventilation, continuous miner operations and outbye services.
According to Mr Phillips, mining companies across Australia struggled to find the time and resources to properly train staff.
“They don’t have a lot of spare people to train them up; machinery is very hard to acquire for training around the needs of the operation,” he said.
“We find that in itself an advantage that they can send the people here and we can get them up to a level of training then give them back to the mine where they’ve actually had a very concentrated training program.”