In the small Hunter Valley township of Broke, at about 4.30am a group of about six mining stalwarts are making an effort to combat the ill effects mining has had on the region’s tired employees.
The local volunteers launched the OPEN4U Breakfast about a year ago, with no funding or connection with any mines, recognising fatigue and depression was ripping holes through their tight knit community.
The OPEN4U Breakfast volunteers have now been awarded the Community Interaction award at this year’s Australian Mining Prospect Awards.
Accepting the award on behalf of the group, volunteer Barry Cox said the initiative started when a father and son from the local community were involved in a road accident after completing a long night shift.
Cox said the group simply didn’t want incidents like this to happen anymore.
“We thought if we could give the boys a bit of time to relax, refresh, have something to eat and then move on home, that’s all we wanted was to prevent another accident, and I think it’s working,” he said.
Surrounded by a number of coal mines including Bulga and Ravensworth, the gathering started off small but has grown significantly over the last 12 months to now average between 30 and 50 mine workers stopping for a free breakfast and a chat.
“We’re now getting mines in the area calling up to see if their people can call in,” Cox explained.
“We’ve gone from one or two miners of a morning 12 months ago to now seventy miners calling in.”
He said it’s not just operators using the service, with managers and general managers also calling in from different mines in the area.
Cox added that it has evolved into an opportunity for all the different operations to get together.
“Some of them work on dozers two or three kilometres away from each other, they don’t get to meet with each other, so we provide a fire and they sit around the fire and talk, we’re thrilled about that,” he said.
Under a blue gazebo, the volunteers cook up breakfast once a week, alternating Monday and Friday so miners on different rotations have the opportunity to have a break and get home safely.
Discussing the award, fellow volunteer Roy Palmer said the result is “truly humbling”.
“Truly we are without words to describe our sheer delight,” he said.
Commenting on the decision to award OPEN4U this year’s coveted Community Interaction Award, the judges said it is a valuable initiative for the Hunter Valley mining community.
“Bringing locals and miners together after shifts to reduce the effects of fatigue and promote a sense of camaraderie is worthy of recognition,” they said.
“We’ll never know if we’ve helped anyone, it’s not something you can measure,” Mark Jolly a volunteer and cofounder of the initiative told Australian Mining.
“But I’m confident if we’ve helped someone get home safely we’ve done our jobs.”
This year’s finalists field also included BMA's Buying Local Program which works closely with the community, ensuring the benefits of the industry are spread throughout the region.
It was recognised as a strategy focused on empowering local communities to "help them, help themselves".
Rio Tinto's Clermont Mine programs also made the cut for demonstrating commitment to its social licence to operate, a key theme which ran throughout all this year’s awards.
Clermont has a number of long term community programs, including ones with both the local and local Indigenous community.
FIFO Counselling was also amongst the 2013 finalists recognised for the mental health services it is providing miners on site.
GlencoreXstrata's Ravensworth Mine's free maths clinic and Mining Family Matters were also contenders for the award.
Mining Family Matters, the winner of the inaugural Community Interaction award, was again recognised, this time for expanding its FIFO family reach, releasing its new survival guides for mining and oil and gas families.