The dramatic turnover of senior leadership at South32’s Appin colliery is continuing, with the departure of the mine’s boss and yet another gas ventilation expert.
As news emerged on Thursday that 103 jobs would be cut under a voluntary redundancy program, South32’s head office in Perth confirmed the departure of Lucas Dow.
Mr Dow had been acting in the role of vice-president of operations at Illawarra Coal since July last year, managing the operation as a fixed-contract consultant.
With his contract ended he has returned to his consulting business in Brisbane after overseeing a period of massive turnover in senior positions at the Appin mine.
South32 confirmed he had been replaced by Jason Economidis, who like Mr Dow has gained much of his mine management experience in Queensland.
Mr Dow’s departure followed the exit from the top ranks of Mal Waterfall, a well respected figure who was the mine’s statutory mine engineering manager until early December. Mr Waterfall now works on gas and ventilation at Appin.
A week before that it was goodbye to the highly regarded mine manager Greg Pawley, who left at the end of November after just a week in the job.
And in recent weeks the Appin mine’s ventilation officer – a statutory position required by law – has also left, the latest in a succession of people to depart that position.
In November it was revealed the mine’s experienced former ventilation officer had quit. After two ventilation officers over 20 years, Appin has turned over eight in just over two years.
Ventilation is a critical issue at Appin, said to be the gassiest mine in the Southern Hemisphere, and underground operations have been shut down for several months over the past year because of either elevated gas levels or drainage equipment problems.
South32’s Dendrobium mine is also advertising for a new ventilation officer. The company did not comment when asked by the Mercury whether the turnover of ventilation officers was a concern.
South32 had described the turnover as a bid to “change the culture” at Appin, but it was not clear whether this extended to senior managers.
Mr Dow had previously been a partner in management consultants Integrated Global Partners, who took an increasing role in changing operations at Appin, along with mining contractors Redpath.
Mr Dow was the president of BMA Alliance when it cut 700 jobs from its coal operations in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.
Mr Economidis is another veteran of the BMA Alliance in Queensland. He has also worked for Peabody, Orica and Vale’s mining divisions.