The guardians of Mica Creek

21 October 2021

Mica Creek Power Station once boasted a workforce in the hundreds during its heyday, but now, several months since the Mount Isa power station was taken out of operation, just three people now work at the site.

Site Coordinator, Doug Mukupe, and Cold Storage Officers, Boy Page and Mark Leech, have remained at Mica Creek in maintenance roles, ensuring the site’s safety.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Site Coordinator Doug Mukupe has been in the electricity industry for over 30 years and is used to change.

“My career in electrical instrumentation and control has always been in power generation. It’s taken me from Zimbabwe to New Zealand, and now to Australia — I joined Stanwell in 2018 and came straight to the outback,” he said.

“Before Mica Creek was taken out of operation, I was an Electrical Supervisor on site. In my new role now as Site Coordinator, the scope of my responsibilities has greatly increased.

“I’m now in charge of overall financial and maintenance management, overseeing operational compliance, and managing relationships with our external and community stakeholders.”

Cold Storage Officer, Boy Page, joined Stanwell in 2019 and was an Operator Maintenance Technician before moving into his current role.

“My background has always been electrical, and I’ve worked in mining, contracting, and power generation,” he said.

“In my new role I’m focused on ongoing operational and electrical requirements of the plant, along with everything else that comes up!”

Cold Storage Officer, Mark Leech, has been with Stanwell since 2020 and was originally a Maintenance Administrator. A long-time resident of Mount Isa, he’s worked in diesel fitting for over 25 years.

“We’re physically disconnected from the North West Power System so are reliant on diesel generators for power, and diesel pumps for our anti-pollution system,” he said.

“This equipment requires critical monitoring and keeps me busy, on top of other duties including ongoing record keeping, safety programs, and routine audits. As a small team we all need to be adaptable.”

Daily life on site has changed since Mica Creek was taken out of operation on 1 January 2021, but Doug Mukupe said it wasn’t as quiet as what you might think.

“Ongoing maintenance is a challenge — we work through daily, weekly, fortnightly, and monthly routines to mitigate any deterioration of the plant. If we leave assets just sitting around, they can deteriorate to the point of being suitable only for scrap in just a few months,” Doug said.

“With less people, we need to wear a lot of different hats. Our team is responsible for all duties, from site security in the daylight hours to all technical aspects of maintenance work. As a small team, we rely on each other heavily. For some specialised work we bring in contractors, who we enjoy having in as they add more life to the site.

“I like to say that Mica Creek is silent but not dead — it’s a gem in hibernation.”

Mica Creek Power Station was a 218 MW gas-fired power generation site, located six kilometres from Mount Isa. It was taken out of operation on 1 January 2021 after supplying energy to the region for 60 years.

Stanwell will continue its involvement in the North West Minerals Province, investigating projects which may have the potential to support the future supply of secure affordable electricity to the region.