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On site with Alex and the blast crews

Posted by Andrea Lewis

Here's a look at FIVE developments in Paraburdoo from a Rio Tinto perpsective through the eyes of Glen Johnson, Health and Safety Superintendent with Rio Tinto's Greater Paraburdoo Operations (GPO). Earlier this year, Glen was tasked by the GPO General Manager to look at site fatigue and mental health programs at the company's Paraburdoo site – and this included FIVE.
"Early on, the mine site decided to approach FIVE like every other mining project," says Glen. "Two committees were formed to support the DADAA project team with working on site – a Steering Committee and an Implementation Committee. I sit on both committees and am a lead contact between the mining operations, DADAA and FIVE sculptor Alex Mickle.

Alex and Glen look at the possibility of using chains from the mine site in the Paraburdoo sculptureAlex and Glen look at the possibility of using chains from the mine site in the Paraburdoo sculpture

"One of the parts of the project that I am helping with, and possibly one of the hardest elements for this type of pilot project, is engagement. What started off as a process where Alex would talk with people in workshops, soon became a more informal approach where Alex was getting more out of speaking with crews in their workplaces and talking about mining techniques that they used every day – which, through the eyes of Alex, could be seen as a possible sculptural application in an artistic context.

"During one visit, Alex noticed some chains on site that he thought would be really useful for the project. As he spoke with the crews, Alex was able to ask them about how they are used and then discuss with the guys how they could be welded to hold a particular shape, amongst other things. Whether or not chain is used, the teams he met no doubt will keep an eye on FIVE and may well participate directly because of the way in which Alex is directly adapting mining materials to art.

"In a later discussion, what started as a conversation about a tyre change became a possible foundation for Alex’s conceptual thinking for the project – using tyre changing in part of the core concept for the sculpture.

"In October, Alex was in town over a week with his wife Nicole. This gave us an extended opportunity to talk with a range of people in different settings including those at the Picnic Day. We could discuss ideas more broadly and generate interest in the sculpture.

"On the last day of the trip, we visited the Plant Maintenance Workshop and Alex had some high grade iron ore rock to look at and play around with – with Alex raising the question of whether it is possible to weld to the rock. The theory suggests that if the rock is of a high enough grade, you can weld directly to it. This gave the crew a challenge which they took on immediately. Instead of taking lunch (which they did eat, by the way), they hit the workshop and soon proved the theory to be partially true.

"Plans are to find some higher grade rocks to test, and additional cool ways of getting guys interested in what Alex is up to, opening up conversations and bringing more teams on board to create the public sculpture for Paraburdoo. We’re now busy planning a December visit which will involve meeting with more of the Drill and Blast crews."

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Dadaa Principal partnerRio Tinto Arts partner Australia Council