Six Newcrest Mining Limited employees banded together to embark on an epic 2,246 km bike ride from their Perth office to the Telfer operations, raising awareness and funds for mental health.

The MVD Memorial Ride was initially formed as a way for Newcrest employees to honour a fallen comrade, Michael (Mick) Van Duren, who after struggling with his own demons unfortunately took his life in 2018. It soon became a much bigger mission, raising funds for Beyond Blue and the WA Disabled Sports Association, spreading awareness of mental illness and encouraging their colleagues and the wider community to speak up, with the key message that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’.

From 4 to 15 April 2019, the Ride’s 20+ collective of team members and support crew which included Mick’s brother, travelled from Newcrest’s office in Perth city to the company’s Telfer gold mine located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The team took turns to either cycle or be driven to the next location in support vehicles, with 2,100 km of the ride undertaken on bitumen roads and the remaining 146 km ridden on red dirt, with the team met by other riders along the way.

Newcrest Mining Senior Mining Engineer Aaron Burton said the experience has changed his perceptions.

“When Ben first started talking about the ride, for me, it was about honouring the memory of a friend and a colleague. To derive some sense of closure for something that, on the face of it, didn’t make sense. In the lead up to the ride and throughout our journey together, I began to understand that the scenario that had played out for our Telfer family was not necessarily unique to us,” he said.

“Each step of the way led me to grasping the bigger issue at play among our friends, our families, our towns, and our industry. This newfound appreciation began to reshape my motivation within the troop and what I believed our goal to be. I was not just crewing this ride, people were not just riding bikes, it wasn’t just a big road trip—we were there to help everyone understand one statement: ‘it’s okay not to be okay’.

“I will never forget those early mornings of each of us scurrying about to kick off the new days challenge, the flies, heat, humidity, or sorting out where we stashed the coffee. Those seemingly endless kilometres that plunged headlong over the horizon with undaunted cyclists charging onward to their goal. Those quiet final moments in the evenings spent with the man who inspired us all to take this leap, and helping curate our daily message to ensure people knew why we were out there.

“I will also never forget Michael Van Duren and how he changed my life,” he concluded.

Some days the mammoth journey took them through towns like Carnarvon and Karratha, where the promise of a local caravan park meant hot showers and actual beds, while other nights they simply camped in swags by the side of the road. At every location they were met with members of the community who showed up to support and cheer on the team, sometimes making a donation or sharing their own stories.

Newcrest Mining Open Pit Surveyor Ben O’Callaghan said he was stunned by the level of support.

“We have received support from not only Newcrest, but our other sponsors and the general public as well. I don’t think I ever imagined that we would raise so much in dollars as well as in the mental health awareness that our ride helped to deliver.

“We took this on firstly, as a way to say sorry to my mate for not being there when he needed me the most, but by the end of the ride we were openly engaging complete strangers in meaningful dialogue about mental health and all of the 'taboo' subjects that come with it. Along the way people were opening their wallets to donate as well as their mouths, and we were listening. Sometimes that's all a person needs to get a monkey off their back and to continue on with their day.

“I'm extremely proud and enormously grateful to Newcrest for allowing us to pursue this dream and the team that came for the ride are in my eyes all champions,” he concluded.

Following the ride, Newcrest Mining Telfer General Manager Mark Adams also generously committed to match every dollar the team had raised, on top of the company’s initial donation to the cause. This brought the Ride’s total to $111,830.00, helping to continue making a difference in the lives of those affected by anxiety, depression or suicide.

The MVD Memorial Ride was supported by: platinum sponsor Newcrest Mining Limited; gold sponsor Action Drill and Blast; silver sponsors Dyno Nobel, Byrnecut Mining, Macmahon Holdings; and bronze sponsors Red Earth Health Solutions, Arvista, Alliance Airlines, TBE, Linfox, Freo Cranes, Bladon WA, Bisley, Makays Drilling, RSEA, Clarity Blasting and Mining, Cuore Australia.