Firm mines Australian opportunity
When Delta resident Robert Proctor learned a local company was recruiting experienced coal miners to work in Australia, he knew it was an opportunity he could not pass up.
Though Proctor, 43, was hesitant to leave his wife and daughter behind for one to two years, he decided to do it.
“I had a good job at (the West Elk Mine in Somerset),” Proctor said. “It was hard to terminate, but Australia was a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”
Proctor is one of more than a dozen Western Slope coal miners a Delta firm, TK Mining Services, has recruited to mine coal in Queensland, Australia.
Dave Schaaf, owner, president and chief operating officer of TK Mining Services, said Proctor and his colleagues, who arrived in Australia in November, were brought on to help meet the growing demand for coal in China.
Demand from China and other Asian countries has surged during the past several years, he said, driving up the price of coal from Australia to $300 a ton.
Similar coal from Colorado fetches upward of $140 a ton, according to Cindy Little, TK Mining Services’ operations manager for Australia.
As a result of the high demand, Schaaf said, mining jobs in Australia pay well.
According to an ad TK Mining Services placed on an employment Web site, the jobs’ wages range from $112,000 to $240,000 a year, plus benefits and transportation to and from Australia.
Proctor said being away from his family has been the most difficult part of the job, but the Internet has helped him cope with the distance.
“The 17-hour time difference is a tough issue to deal with, especially with our work hours and such,” Proctor said. “There are only small windows that my wife and I can communicate. … I can’t imagine doing this in the past when you would only have the postal system and land line phones for communication.”
Proctor said he hopes his wife and daughter can visit him over the summer.