Boom times to bust for unemployed miner

Starting over: Former miner Brad Mort, with wife Kathy and children, from left, Rayna, 3, Hudson, 6, and Austin, 9, is looking for a new job.Brad Mort is the human face of the mining downturn.

The Stroud 38-year-old was retrenched from his job at the Abel mine near Black Hill in August last year, after the Yancoal operation shed about 170 workers, orclose to two-thirds of workforce.

Mr Mort, a former horticulturalist and vineyard supervisor, had landed what hethought was his dream job in mining less than four years earlier after trying for two years to break into the industry.

“Mining was going gangbusters and I wanted a piece of that pie,” Mr Mort recalls. “My old job was very satisfying, but once the kids came along, I needed something more to secure our future.”

“When I was interviewed at Abel, they told me the mine had 25 to 30 years’ life left in it. I was really excited and grateful; Ithought that was going to see me out.”

Mr Mort loved the camaraderie of his new job, the betterpay packet and the extrafamily time his flexibleroster allowed. But after the firstyear, rumours of cutbacks began to circulate and the roster tightened up.Then, in August 2015, the axe fell.

Determined not to join the swelling ranks of long-term unemployed miners, Mr Mort took a short breakthen immersed himself inretraining, undertaking Certificate IV and diploma courses in Work, Health and Safety.

However, after “40 or 50” job applications, Mr Mort has had very little response and no job offers.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I have invested in the training and committed to thisbeing my future, so I am not ready to abandon it yet,but I can see that in another month or so, if nothing comes up, I will have to look around for whatever work I can get.”

This week’s announcement that 270 jobs are to be shed from the Mount Arthur mine near Muswellbrook brings the number of jobs set to go from Hunter mines this year alone to at least 1000.The Herald reported yesterdaythere was growing support for governments to develop a formal strategy to help mining communities deal with the downturn and unemployed mine workers transition into new roles.

Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush has called on the state government to commit $30 million to establishing an Upper Hunter Economic Development Council to address the issues and federal Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon wants to see a regional strategy promoting economic diversity.

Mr Mort said the volatility of the industrywas the reason hedid notconsider another mining job.

“I did a lot of research and decided there wasn’t a lot of future in coal, especially locally. The money andconditions have goneandI think it will be a long time before it turns around in workers’ favour again.”

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