Ipswich miner celebrates rehabilitation feat

24 April 2017

The full rehabilitation of two Ipswich coal mines finally completes this week, with Ipswich miner New Hope Group celebrating eight years of hard work from their Chuwar and New Oakleigh West rehab crew.

While two crew members have transferred to the company’s Jeebropilly mine, it’s the end of an era for a handful of New Hope’s longest serving employees whose combined service totals more than 135 years.

Outgoing crew members include Graham Liekifett, Ken Bassett, Murray Freeman, Dennis Russell and Barry Zimmerman.

Murray Freeman retires after an impressive 37 years with the company and said the completion of rehabilitation at the two mine sites symbolised his career coming full circle.

“I told my family I wouldn’t hang up my boots until the job was done and that meant I needed to see the rehabilitation through,” Murray said.

“The rehab at Chuwar and New Oakleigh West means we’ve returned the land to such a high quality, you wouldn’t know it was mined so I feel like my job is finally done.

“Leaving isn’t easy, New Hope gave me a career not just a job and I’m really going to miss the mateship and comradery I found, especially during the early years.”

Dennis Russell retires after 31 years with New Hope and said when his crew first started working on the rehab he didn’t think they’d ever get it done.

“Backfilling the old mining pits was a really big job but once it was complete we shaped the land into its final form and laid down top soil for the new grass and seeds.

“I’ve seen this industry change a lot over 30 years but what sticks with me most is the people I’ve met, those relationships were the most meaningful part.

Supervisor Barry Zimmerman was responsible for overseeing the rehab of both Chuwar and New Oakleigh West and said his crew was a hardworking and close-knit unit.

“The men on my crew were good workers and good friends and they’re the type of blokes who could have a laugh and still get their work done,” Barry said.

“Chuwar closed down in the late eighties but a lot of us actually worked at New Oakleigh together when it was still being mined in early 2000.

“Over the last thirty years I’ve had a great career with New Hope but now I’m looking forward to having some time off to travel and winding back to more casual work.”

Operators Graham Liekifett and Ken Bassett will also transition out of mining and into part time work after racking up an impressive 16 and 19 years in the industry.

A gallery of images depicting the progress of the rehab over the past 8 years is available on the New Hope Group website at www.newhopegroup.com.au/content/about/rehabilitation