Driving from Dysart to Emerald this was one of the amazing land formations out here in the Central Highlands and Bowen Basin.

I’ve been working in the Central Highlands now for nearly three months. This is an area about 500km North West of Brisbane and is home to probably about 50 coal mines due to massive deposits across the Bowen Basin.




Dressed in my high-vis clothing and steel toe caps.

My day-to-day job has been to go to mines and train engineers and maintenance crews in the latest version of SAP, a powerful computer system used to run these operations. I have been based in the town of Emerald which in my opinion, is one of the best settlements in the area and has a population of about 10,000 which makes it probably the largest.

Coal miners – a dirty bunch

Many people have perceptions of what miners and mining is all about, and I have to say that I have been really impressed by the guys I’ve trained. Yeah they can be a bit rough and ready or for people who know Australia, they’re much more rural-natured. These are hands-on kinda guys who generally want to do a good job and have accepted the compromise of a town lifestyle for a higher wage and work in remote locations. Having been underground at a couple of mines, I’d say it takes a certain breed to be willing to work in the rabbit warrens which make up about 30% of the sites. In addition, most of the maintenance crews work night shifts at times which is a whole different kettle of fish and I’ve read that this kind of shift work can actually shorten peoples’ lives. Although I work here, this is not something I’d ever choose to do and I have respect for those who do.

Hot Poker

Not having many friends in the area, I looked for a pastime for the evenings I’ve been here and have been really pleased to find a couple of pubs which run free poker evenings about 5 days per week. During these sessions, you are given around $5,000 in poker chips which you use to play against and knock out the others. Those who finish in first to third place receive cash prizes of up to $175. Of course I’d like to win (I’ve come 2nd, 3rd and 5th and regularly make the top table), however it’s far more about the connecting and having fun which is appealing to me and I’ve made a few poker buddies.

Mining for Sapphires

Next to Emerald are the towns of Sapphire and Rubyvale. As the names suggest, they relate to the precious stones which can be found in the area. Incidentally, Emeralds cannot be found in Australia and generally come from South America – the town of Emerald is named after ‘Emerald Downs’ which is a farm in the area which was seen to have fields which were emerald in colour, hence the name.

I have spent a few weekends fossicking (looking for stones in dirt) and frequenting the Sunday Sapphire markets where the locals sell their wares. I recently procured about 250 stones for $20 at the markets which I have sorted (with the stones I found myself) and have sent off to Thailand to be cut. (I chose to send them away as the cost to cut them overseas is 10% the cost of cutting them locally.)

Bob at the Sunday markets in Sapphire – I bought my 18 carat white topaz from Bob who found it at Mt Surprise and cut it himself.

I have also purchased a few amazing stones and am designing a piece of jewellery to have them set in to. I am also building myself a treasure chest and will use some of the stones (including an 18 carat white topaz from Mt Surprise) in the mix.

Next steps

I’m not sure what my next project will be after this … potentially Western Australia, maybe even Canada or perhaps back in Brisbane to develop some courses. When chatting to the other trainers, when asked how we’re going, we say that we’re ‘Living the Dream’ and I have to say that I adore what I’m doing here and despite longing for consistency and a regular home base, friends to spend time with and the trappings of ‘normal’ life, I wouldn’t change my life right now and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to live life in the way I am.

Here are a few other random shots of what I’ve been up to:

A rainbow flight … flying to Emerald


I drive across the Tropic of Capricorn most days on my way to work
As I often start early, I get to see the sun rise most days
These are the Blackdown Tablelands near Blackwater – one of the few high points in the area and they have beautiful waterfalls to visit.

Are you ‘Living the Dream?’ What would your life look like if you were? Do you want to work in mining? I’d love to hear your comments and observations.


5 thoughts on “Away in the Mines – a bit of an update”

  1. What a lovely update about the life of an SAP Trainer in rural Qld. As I myself are one of the lucky ones who get to also share this dream we’re living, I know first hand about the challenges and victories we have been facing over the past few months.

    ‘Living the Dream’ is a bit of a catch phrase which has infiltrated our little group of trainers, started by an amazing member of the crew and valued friend, Sir Richard. So I might just expand on it a little, as it says a lot about the people we are and the life we are living. Throughout the past 6 months there have been a lot of highs and lows, challenges and frustrations. The positive way in which each of us responded to it all has revealed itself in this commonly used expression. You see, when the mantra first originated, some of the trainers were pretty stressed and a little overwhelmed at how demanding our role was. It felt like being pulled in 1000 different directions and left you unsure about where you stood at all. At the same time, wanting to do our best but often feeling like this wasn’t good enough, the old ego got a bit of a hammering. So here in lies the origin of ‘Living the Dream’. At first it was said more as if we were trying to convince ourselves that’s was we were doing, then as time wore on and the more we said it, the more we believed it. Now our team has the best results on the project, and we are able to enjoy the dream to the fullest. We still get our dramas, but everyone becomes stronger and better because of them.

    So when you ask yourself ‘Are you living the dream?’, it may be you wish for a crazy ride of constant travel and no real place to call home, or it may be a settled lifestyle out on a country farm. Whatever your dream, set your path and decide that’s where you want to be. It’s easy to focus on some minor negative aspects of any situation, and human nature draws us to feel like they’re bigger than they actually are. However if you are on the path right for you, don’t ask yourself if you’re living the dream, tell yourself you are.

  2. Fantastic summary and snapshot of what we encounter out here and also a great proof of what outstanding people I have had the pleasure to work with on this project. Coming closer to the end of the project – I can only hope to have the chance to work with most of you again. So, David, you will be warmly welcomed in Perth (Of course Kathryn too – if you decide it is worth the flight!)

    I am still in the Emerald In / Blackwater until the end of September and hope to catch up with you!

    As per your question – I agree 100% with Kathryn: However if you are on the path right for you, don’t ask yourself if you’re living the dream, tell yourself you are.
    I am – as being in OZ with the people I love in an incredibly awesome environment is right for me 🙂

  3. Thanks Eva – aren’t we all so lucky that we get to be where we are. Life really is like a box of chocolates and at the moment we’re delighting taste-buds almost every day!

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