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James Brunton (Jim) Simpson (1943–2002)

Christened James Brunton Simpson, he was born December 12, 1943 of Scottish parents. His father migrated to NSW to work as a miner and later became the Minister for Mines in a labour government.

In a moving eulogy at Simpson’s funeral, family friend Bob Clifton remembered Simpson as much for his infatuation with the detail of legal documents as for his recitals of ‘The Doggy’s Lament.’ The man who showed absolute loyalty to his friends, colleagues, staff and the men underground.

Simpson started work at Powercoal’s Newstan colliery as a junior male clerk in early 1961 before a period as surveyor’s assistant at Newstan, Newvale and Newvale 2 mines. He transferred as mining cadet in 1969 to start his mining studies.

During the years of study to obtain his various mining qualifications Simpson acted in the various capacities of safety officer, and shift undermanager at Newstan, before obtaining his Colliery Manager’s certificate at the end of 1977. He was appointed assistant manager and later manager of Newstan in 1979.

“Jim was Manager of Newstan for over twenty years, an unusually long time in a coal industry which was changing rapidly, both technologically and industrially,” Clifton said.

“Under his charge, Newstan evolved from a continuous miner mine producing 2000 tonnes per day, to a high capacity, state of the art, longwall mining operation supplying local Power Stations and export markets in Japan and South East Asia.”

It was Simpson who oversaw the introduction of a new generation of sophisticated longwall mining equipment to the company, four of which were purchased for the company’s expanding mines. He is also remembered as the driving force behind many industry innovations such as off rail transportation methods for men and equipment, the development and support of gate roadways, longwall face recovery, and the management of periodic weighting and spontaneous combustion. He was instrumental in establishing the use of 33kV voltage on longwall faces in about 1983 and developed the single pass technique for roadway development.

“During the 1980’s, the Newstan surface was completely rebuilt and two new inclined drifts driven by roadheading machines. The high standard of workmanship achieved was a reflection of Jim’s vision, determination and dedication,” Clifton said.

“He oversaw the upgrading of the coal washing plant and building of the rail loading facility, and established the work practices which have made that facility the most efficient in the industry today.”

The year 1984 saw his world change when Simpson was diagnosed with leukaemia.

“Jim took the challenge with a proactive approach,” recalled his friend Phil McCarthy, previously managing director of Powercoal. “His Specialist Sandra Deverage gave him the prognosis, but included the ray of hope offered by research. New drugs showed promise, would Jim be the walking R&D lab. The answer of course was yes.

“The journey from there has been difficult for Jim and his family, but all of us saw Jim as a leader in coal. What most did not see was Jim the campaigner for Leukaemia research. He became a Board member of the Leukaemia Foundation,” McCarthy said.

Simpson could speak with authority on the need for research and support and his efforts improved the lives of many sufferers. An initiative lead by Simpson in his role with the Leukaemia Foundation was the introduction of transport and on-site accommodation for patients and their families at the Newcastle Mater Hospital. Those with the disease are very prone to infections picked up in public transport and places.

His commitment to research gave him an extra 18 years of life, “long enough to see his children grow up and achieve at high levels in tertiary education. This gave him much satisfaction,” McCarthy said.

Simpson’s colleagues remember a man as equally dedicated to Leukaemia research as to efforts to improve safety and productivity in underground coal. He knew research had to be close to the end user.

“Jim will always be remembered as a fearless leader who did make a difference, not just in coal but in the community,” McCarthy said.

In 1990, Simpson’s achievements were recognised when he was awarded the coveted Coal Mine Managers Association Merv Harris Award.

In 1997, he took on the role of group manager, mining technology and safety and more lately that of group technical services manager and superintendent of collieries.

That same year he was elected president of the Coal Mine Manager’s Association.

“All up, Jim worked in the coal mining industry and for the one organisation for 41 years. His contribution to and influence on both has been truly immense,” Clifton concluded.

Original publication

Citation details

'Simpson, James Brunton (Jim) (1943–2002)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/simpson-james-brunton-jim-33099/text41270, accessed 26 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Birth

12 December, 1943
New South Wales, Australia

Death

18 April, 2002 (aged 58)
New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (leukemia)

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