BILOELA man Cole Klease has been commended for his many years of work and dedication in the mining industry.
Cole Klease was awarded Rio Tinto Energy and Minerals Pioneer of the Year 2017 for "his outstanding commitment to underground mine safety and protecting the lives of miners now and in the future."
Mr Klease couldn't believe he was chosen for the award 11,000 Rio Tinto Energy & Minerals employees worldwide
"You could have knocked me over with a feather," he said.
"I was pleasantly shocked.
"It's a huge honour, I'm still pinching myself."
Mr Klease moved to Biloela at the age of 10 and moved away in 1994.
He now works as a Compliance Coordinator and Fire Officer at Kestrel mine near Emerald, has been involved in the mining industry for 39 years this year.
"I worked at Moura no.2 Underground mine for 15 years and have been with Kestrel for five years," he said.
He started out at the bottom and worked his way through the ranks.
"I started out as a coal miner, became a deputy in 1983 and worked my way up and became a shift supervisor in 2002," Mr Klease said.
"I worked as an Operations Manager with the Queensland Mines Rescue Service from 2007 to 2012 and then I joined Rio Tinto in late 2012 to present."
These days, his role is not so much getting his hands dirty with the coal but it is just as important.
"Mainly compliance with emergency responses and evacuations but I am also statutory fire officer to make sure all the equipment is up to scratch," Mr Klease said.
"Hopefully we provide a good service to the mine "
And most of all, he said Kestrel mine is a great workplace.
"I love the variety, the interaction with the workforce, the knowledge sharing," Mr Klease said.
"There is a lot of pluses and not too many negatives.
"They are all keen to come to training and learn."
Mr Klease was still shocked to have received the award.
"It's the biggest recognition anyone could ever get," he said.
"For anyone to not only get recognised, but from a company worldwide, its awesome."
The first time Rio Tinto has run the award, Mr Klease is the first recipient of the award.
"It's a great honour, I am very proud to get the award and I am still lost for words," he said.
Not one to brag, Mr Klease said his job was about the rewarding of helping others not for accolades.
"I'm a quiet achiever, I don't like drawing attention to myself and just go about my work and try to pass on my knowledge and skills of underground work," he said.
"And if my help has helped one or two persons over the years then I have done my job."
It is his dedication that has led him to receive the prestigious award.
"My dedication to mines rescue, my dedication to training people in mine evacuation and response," Mr Klease said.
"I was involved in the Moura No.4 1986 explosions and my own mine blew up in 1994, the no.2 explosion, unfortunately we couldn't help there.
"As a volunteer rescue person i was called out to sites for each of those."
It was then, the mine worker knew he wanted to do something to help.
"Out of that I lost a lot of good friends but gained a lot of skills and experience," Mr Klease said.
"I set myself a little mission to train my colleagues and people to make sure nothing like that happens ever, ever again.
"Make sure they do the right thing and they keep doing it right and they don't make mistakes.
"It's not nice when you lose your workmates, it's a bitter pill."
He said out of their loss, the lost workmate's legacy has become safety.
"Underground coal mining is a very hazardous jobs that you can control but when you lose control it gets hazardous," Mr Klease said.
While there hasn't been a major explosion in many years, Mr Klease said they can't take that for granted.
"We cant become complacent and be vigilant at all times," he said.
"Safety is paramount."
And this is what it is all about for Mr Klease.
"It's always good to be recognised for something you do, something you believe strongly in," he said.
"I just cant put it in words, its incredible to be recognised for something you do every day."