TOP DAY OUT: Discover one of the many mines around the region through the Blackwater International Coal Centre.
TOP DAY OUT: Discover one of the many mines around the region through the Blackwater International Coal Centre. Daryl Wright

Mining the fun of coal fields

WELL, after a couple of weeks of exploring all the great natural wonders of the region from Lake Maraboon to the Sapphire Gemfields and then the beautiful Blackdown Tableland National Park, I thought it was now time to discover what this area's coal story is all about.

Coming from Victoria where our "dirty” brown coal mining and use is a bit of a conversation stopper, I was intrigued to hear what all the fuss is about the coking coal mined in this area, in what, is regarded as one of the largest coal producing areas in the world.

So, I was off to join the Mine Tour which runs out of the Blackwater International Coal Centre every Tuesday and Wednesday, where I was promised to experience "the ultimate awe of a mining tour, see amazing open cut pits, mammoth mining equipment and learn about coal mining from a pro”.

That all sounded fantastic until I got into the tour bus and noticed the roll cage and other safety equipment fitted and thought maybe this was going to be even more exciting than I had bargained for.

I was relieved to hear this was just standard vehicle mine safety equipment and not a reflection of our tour guide's driving. The information flowed from Carol, our tour guide.

Established by the Utah Development Company, the mine's first load of coal railed in 1967 and since then, it has produced about 450 million tonnes of coal, which is enough to make the steel for 14,151 Sydney Harbour Bridges.

At almost 80 kilometres in strike length, it remains one of the longest coal mines in the southern hemisphere.

But wow, look at the size of that - the machinery really is mammoth, and totally hard to comprehend just how big until you are up close to it and see it working in action.

The most surprising thing was that some of it was just plugged in to electricity by an equally mammoth extension cable.

Suitably impressed, it was back to the café for a coffee and freshly made scones and then a tour through the museum and gardens which finished off the day perfectly.

Now, I guess some of you are avid miners and have seen it all before but, for those of us who have not, I think you will be impressed and find the mine tour very interesting.

Make sure you book through the Blackwater International Coal Centre as they only run on Tuesdays and Wednesday.

Come and see the Visitor Information Centre staff for details and other great things to do in the holidays.