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Dec 6, 2013

Broke, overstretched and hungry: Nathan Tinkler’s early years

Nathan Tinkler got his start in a "dirty, mongrelly job" in a mine, but he didn't stay long in steady employment. Despite significant financial problems at home, he always had his eye on the big picture.

Paddy Manning

Crikey business editor

In late 1993, at the age of 17, Nathan Tinkler got his start as an apprentice at BHP’s Bayswater Coal open-cut mine five kilometres from Muswellbrook, now part of the massive Mount Arthur complex, the biggest thermal coal mine in New South Wales. “Like any apprentice, if you aren’t a self-starter you quickly learn to be,” Tinkler later told Master Electrician magazine.

Tinkler has described working as a mine electrician — a “pit leco” — as a “dirty, mongrelly job” — but he also noted that he “fucking loved it”. His colleagues from this time have varying memories. Some recall a smart, happy-go-lucky worker. Others reckon he was pretty lazy: he’d sneak the odd nap and was quick to knock off and head to the pub. Rumour has it he was given the nickname “Standby”. Tinkler had an arrogance about him, some have also recalled, a supreme confidence that he was destined for greater things — that he was going to be a multimillionaire one day. Fellow mine workers remember him reading the newspaper’s share pages during his smoko.

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