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Kay Orr a second generation at Blackwater Mine

Kay Orr
Kay Orr Contributed

FOLLOWING in her father's footsteps, Kay Orr is the second of three generations to work at BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) Blackwater Mine.

Kay's family moved to the area when her father Ulrich Hagemann took a job as a foreman at the Coal Handling and Processing Plant (CHPP) that was under construction at what was then Utah Development Company's South Blackwater Mine.

In 2001, South Blackwater Mine and Central Blackwater Mine were merged and officially acquired by the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) - becoming the BMA Blackwater Mine.

Since she was a child, Kay has watched the mine grow and transform into what it is today.

"They would bring all the parts in on trucks for the big draglines and we watched them gradually be built,” she said.

In 1975, Kay decided to take a job as a 'tea girl' straight out of high school, joining her father and brother Frank at the mine. Frank, who has since retired, started working as an operator in the CHPP in 1972.

"In the early days, there were only a few women in the office and they worked as receptionists, secretaries, clerks or as a tea girl, like me when I started,” Kay said. "We used to rattle the old trolley up the hallway of the office, bringing everyone their tea, coffee and biscuits.”

When the mine opened, Kay said the employees and community became so tight-knit that they were like one big, happy family.

"There were staff parties and girls' nights out. Everyone knew everyone and they all lived in the town,” she said.

Over the years, Kay has seen some impressive changes to the business and recalls when the first computers were introduced to the site.

"I remember using the old typewriters to prepare cheques and invoices,” Kay said. "There were no such things as computers or fax machines, it was all snail mail.”

Since starting, Kay has worked across many different roles, including as a telex operator, secretary to the office manager, accounts payable officer, payroll officer and receptionist.

Still living in Blackwater and a devoted member of Blackwater Mine, Kay now works as an administration officer in the mine's maintenance department.

"I love it because my family's here. My family are my best friends and it's great to have them close by,” Kay said.

"I have my horses and my daughter, and after a holiday, I can't wait to come back.”

Kay's daughter, Bonita, also worked at BMA Blackwater Mine, with three generations of the family having worked at the site since the 1960s.

Bonita was born and raised in Blackwater and started her career completing an auto-electrician apprenticeship.

"The company has just been constantly evolving. Over the generations it has been changing all the time; the company and the people. I've stayed because I enjoy it a lot,” Kay said.

When not at work, Kay is a keen horse rider and featured in the old Blackwater Mine Utah Newsletter (pictured) with her very first horse Mr Ed who sported a blanket of all the ribbons the pair won competing in local shows and Pony Club gymkhana events.

After a 20-year break, Kay is now back riding her horses and hopes to get back into her competitions.

In recognition of those who have been involved with BMA Blackwater Mine over the past 50 years, and to reminisce on the site's rich history, a community day will be held on Saturday, October 7, at Blackwater Crushers Rugby League Fields.

The free event will have live entertainment, food stalls, historical displays and plenty of entertainment for families. To register visit bwm50yrs.eventbrite. com.au.


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