Geoff Watson – MEC’s Underground Coal Expert

With a birthplace in the heart of the Yorkshire Coalfield (UK), Geoff has over 33 years experience in the operational, technical and financial aspects of the mining industry. He has managed and mentored mining and technical personnel from coal developments, longwall operations through to technical services and major contracts.

Here, Geoff shares some of his personal insights on his career:

What has been your most memorable project to date? Undoubtedly, all projects have SWOT’s and I strive to extract as much value out of the resource as possible using tried and trusted techniques. The one project that stands out, for me, was a complex multi-seam resource with transitions from an established brownfield operation to perform as world class longwalls.

Have you noticed any new trends in the UG Coal world? Yes, new and emerging underground projects are out-numbering their opencut counterparts as the “easy” resources become depleted. This must be coupled with a recognition that advancing exploration is the key to unlocking these resources.

How has technology helped or enhanced your scope of work? The underground coal mining environment is a complex network of interconnected activities and people. Technology has enabled advancements of both safety and productivity of development and longwall processes. As an example, the continuous monitoring of mine ventilation systems (active and sealed areas) provides valuable information for communication with a safer and productive result.

In your opinion, do you think the mining industry has overcome the downturn? It goes without saying the mining industry faces many internal and external challenges and yet the modern day business has responded to ensure it remains resilient to volatilities. In my opinion, if you still have some “skin in the game” then you are probably over the worst of this cycle.

What is your favourite past time? My overall favourite has to be enjoying the pleasures of boating and jetski with the family and friends. Nothing better than setting up the gazebo, BBQ and messing about on the ocean.

Who inspires you? My Mum. Mum was my reason for riding my pushbike over thousands of kilometres as a fundraiser for cancer research.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate engineer? Always tell the truth, it’s easier to remember! Seriously, the mining business can be a wonderful career if you are prepared to face challenges. Secondly, make sure you spend quality time at the “coalface” to fully engage and appreciate the complex nature of the business. Quote, “nature cannot be tricked or cheated. She will give up to you, the object of your struggles only after you have paid her price.”