man smiling at a mine site

50 years and counting meet Dragline Operator Neville

When asked about his secret to getting up every day to work at Goonyella Riverside Mine for the past 50 years, Dragline Operator Neville Williams’ answer couldn’t be more pragmatic.

“I just set my alarm,” he says.

Neville first started working as a Trades Assistant at Goonyella in 1972 and officially celebrated 50 years at site on November 27, 2022. In the early 70s, Neville recalls even some streets in Moranbah were unpaved and the only way into site was via dirt roads. There were about 300-400 employees compared to today’s 2,000 plus. Everything was done in-house and the community was tight-knit.

“Back in '72 when Goonyella started, there was nothing out-sourced,” Neville reminisces. “We had our own painters, plumbing shop, carpenter shop and light vehicle workshop. We had our own light vehicles. We didn't lease them. Everything was done inside the mine site. If there was carpentry to do, our own carpenters would do it at a workshop here on site. There was also a lot less paperwork back then too.”

But after the alarm goes off, five decades on, Neville still finds joy at work each day.

“Half a century on and I still enjoy my work in operations – it’s still interesting, challenging and rewarding for me. I’ve looked after myself pretty well and I think BMA has looked after me well too,” Neville says.

“It's a little bit hard to believe, but I still get a little bit of a hit at the big equipment.”

For Neville, who has turned his hand to just about every operational role and has a knowledge of the mine that runs as deep as the pit, says the most significant change he’s witnessed during his years at Goonyella has come in the past two years during the switch from conventional to autonomous haulage (AH) mining, which began in pre-strip in 2020 and recently went live across coal in November last year. 

“To be honest, during the 50 years I’ve been at Goonyella, learning the ins and outs of autonomous mining has probably been my biggest career highlight,” Neville says.

“When I first started off, I wasn't really sure of myself and my ability to learn the new the technology and the protocols that go with it, but I quite enjoyed it in the end.

“I think the biggest thing was getting over that fear of the technology, but once I did, I felt a great sense of achievement and could see the benefits in terms of safety and efficiency. I am pretty proud of myself to do the things I can do in AH. I had a terrible time first up, but in the end once I got used to it, it wasn't hard for me.”

Neville admits he thought to himself “tell them they’re dreaming” when he first heard of BMA’s ambition to switch from conventional to AH.

“To think that within less than three years we’d have 80 Komatsu trucks driving themselves, well, I really didn’t expect that,” Neville said.

Besides work, other major life highlights include the births of his two daughters, one of whom was born in Mackay and raised in Moranbah and the other born while he and his second wife were doing a stint in Canada.