Xstrata Coal has turned its former Baal Bone underground mine into a hands-on training facility.
The Lithgow mine has now become the regional training centre, where cleanskins will spend 12 weeks learning mining skills.
According to Xstrata "what’s different from more traditional courses is that the trainees not only attend classroom tutorials, they complete familiarisation and operations with the equipment on the surface and then proceed underground to operate the equipment in a ‘real-world’ environment before they start their fulltime careers".
Mark Bulkeley, Xstrata Coal’s Baal Bone health safety and training manager, said the first group of 12 trainees graduated a few weeks ago and are already working at the Ulan West mine.
"The feedback we’ve received from them is that the Baal Bone training facility enabled them to have a better understanding and knowledge before going into production," Bulkeley said.
One of the current trainees, Julie Tiggermann, said it was her first underground mining experience.
"It’s a whole new world for me; I expected to and have done the same as the guys, using the same mining equipment, doing the same work. The trainers are great and I’ve gained experience on Juggernauts, Eimcos, and Shuttle Cars," Tiggerman said.
"The courses are also comprehensive and have included mines rescue and Certificate II in Black Coal competency."
Xstrata NSW COO Ian Cribb believes the facility will "support our expansion plans by being able to attract and employ people without previous mining experience but who, importantly, display attitudes that reflect our Xstrata values".
In January last year, the mine was granted a lease expansion to continue longwall mining at Baal Bone until 2014.
Xstrata’s Ulan mine has also reopened, as the new Ulan West operation in the NSW Central West.
There are currently 12 crews on site at Baal Bone.
"I believe turning Baal Bone into a training facility has benefits for Xstrata but also the local community," Bulkeley said.
"It provides employments for trainers and assessors so they can stay in the community they call home. It also ensure that the colliery will continue to be an integral part of our community and that critical skills will be kept here."