Death was about 50 metres below Josh Pungatara. Straight down. Waiting for him while he sat in a 104-tonne bulldozer teetering on a mine wall.

It was August last year and Pungatara, 36, was using the bulldozer to clear cloggy dirt near the wall at Dawson coal mine in central Queensland.

He had driven bulldozers for about eight years. But that day, he says, the ground suddenly gave way.

“Once the front went over … it sat on the edge. I was looking at the ground,” Pungatara tells The Australian Financial Review.

“I’m lucky I had my blade [of the bulldozer] down on the ground, cause if it had of been up, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a harrowing wait for rescue. A long wait, too. More than an hour and a half.